Court okays trial of suspended Adamawa REC, Yunusa-Ari

The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Friday, gave the nod for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to prosecute its suspended Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, in Adamawa State, Hudu Yunusa-Ari.

Yunusa-Ari is facing a six-count charge over alleged unlawful role he played in the Adamawa State governorship election that held on March 18.

It will be recalled that INEC had initially declared that the gubernatorial election was inconclusive, even as it ordered a supplementary poll.

However, midway into the collation of results of the supplementary poll that held on April 15, the suspended Adamawa REC, Yunusa-Ari, sidelined protocols and announced the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Senator Aishatu Ahmed Binani, as the winner.

The action elicited instant reactions, with the electoral body not only voiding Yunusa-Ari’s action but equally placing him on an indefinite suspension.

Meanwhile, following INEC’s eventual decision to prosecute the Adamawa REC, Senator Binani, through her team of lawyers led by former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Michael Aondoaka, SAN, approached the court to challenge the legality of the planned trial.

Cited as 1st to 3rd Respondents in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/935/2023, which the APC candidate in the poll filed before the court, were; INEC, the Inspector-General of Police, as well as the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF.

Mr Aondoaka, SAN, while moving a motion exparte that was filed alongside the suit, contended that until the petition his client lodged at the tribunal to challenge the outcome of the Adamawa governorship election is decided in line with section 149 of the Electoral Act, 2022, the prosecution of Mr Yunusa-Ari could not be legally valid.

Binani’s lawyer further maintained that INEC’s decision to file an action against any person involved in the initial declaration of his client as winner of the governorship contest, when the tribunal was yet to determine the petition before it, was unconstitutional.

He noted that section 285(6) of the Electoral law prescribed 180 days for determination of electoral disputes, a period that had yet to elapse in the petition the APC candidate lodged before the tribunal on May 6.

Besides, the former AGF told the court that though his client earlier filed a suit to seek a judicial review of INEC’s action in the Adamawa governorship poll, she was directed by Justice Inyang Ekwo who handled the matter, to approach a tribunal with her suit since it was not a pre-election matter.

He told the court that an undertaking had been signed to establish that the suit was not frivolous, adding that his client would be ready to face any cost should the court find the case to be frivolous.

Justice Donatus Okorowo had on the strength of the exparte motion, ordered all the parties in the suit to maintain the status quo ante bellum, pending the determination of the matter.

Aside from ordering accelerated hearing of the case, the court, ordered the Respondents to show cause why all the reliefs that were sought by Senator Binani, should not be granted.

INEC had through its lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, prayed the court to dismiss the suit for being an academic exercise.

He argued that the purport of the suit was to move the court to impede the judicial function of another court of coordinate jurisdiction.

Delivering his judgement on Friday, Justice Okorowo upheld the submission of INEC’s lawyer.

He held that nothing in the law permitted the court to stop a proceeding that I’d pending before another high court.

Consequently, he struck out the suit.