A Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday gave the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the go ahead to collate, conclude and announce the Tafawa Belawa Local Government governorship of Bauchi State.
This is as Justice Inyang Ekwo declined jurisdiction over the matter.
The court dismissed the suit brought by the All Progressives Congress candidate, Bauchi Governor, Mohammed Abubakar, and the party, seeking the order of the court to stoo the electoral umpire from going ahead to collate and announce the results from Tafawa Belawa Local Government of the state.
INEC had earlier resolved to go ahead with the collation and announcement of the result after it had scheduled a supplementary election for March 23.
But the Governor and APC rejected the resumption of collation and announcement of the results, praying the court to ask INEC to go ahead with the supplementary.
Through their counsel, Ahmed Raji, they prayed the court to hold that INEC was wrong in its decision to resume collation of results of the governorship election which it had declared inconclusive.
The plaintiffs told the court that INEC had in a press statement that was signed by its National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, on March 15, insisted on continuing the result collation process.
The APC and its candidate held that unless stopped by the court, INEC would collate the pending results from Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area of the state and announce a final winner of the gubernatorial contest.
Also, counsel to INEC Taminu Inuwa (SAN), urged the court to dismiss the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/299/2019, as grossly lacking in merit.
The electoral body equally queried the jurisdiction of the court to handle the matter it said ought to have been brought before the election petition tribunal. INEC prayed the court to uphold averments contained in the counter-affidavit it filed in opposition to the suit.
INEC contended that the high court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the suit or to halt the collation process.
It argued that contrary to the position of the plaintiffs, the decision to conclude collation of results from Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area of Bauchi State, was based on figures that were contained in the duplicates of results of the election.
The commission insisted that since it had resolved to collate the already garnered results, “only Election Petition Tribunal has the jurisdiction to review the decision”.
It said: “The decision of the Returning Officer referred to is in respect of declaration of scores and return of candidate which is the exclusive reserve of the Election Petition Tribunal. “The defendant having rescinded its earlier decision based on facts that emerged later and made a return, any grievance arising there from, now rest with the Election Petition Tribunal.”
However, in a judgment yesterday, Justice Ekwo held that the court lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate on post election matters.
He subsequently vacated the interim order that restrained the electoral body from going ahead with its plan to conclude the collation process and announce the final result.
The court upheld INEC’s preliminary objection to the suit, stressing that the plaintiffs ought to have challeged the decision at the election petition tribunal.