…Plans to head for Supreme Court
A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Alhaji Usman Tuggar has faulted the refusal of the Court of Appeal in Abuja to uphold his appeal against a judgment affirming the election of Alhaji Adamu Bulkachuwa, husband of the court’s President, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa.
The APC leader in Bauchi State, who said he won the party Senatorial primary election in Bauchi North Senatorial district with 54,000 votes, was reacting to the Court of Appeal judgment of June 11 this year, which affirmed Bukachuwa’s election and upheld the April 18, 2019 judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Tuggar had, in his suit at the Federal High Court, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1240/18 claimed to have won the primary election, but that some forces within the party’s leadership chose to send Bulkachuwa’s name to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the party’s candidate.
He prayed the court to, among others, void his party’ decision and declare that he was the valid winner of the APC primary election and therefore ought to have his name forwarded to INEC as the party’s actual candidate for Bauchi North Senatorial election in the last general elections.
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, who delivered the Federal High Court’s judgment on April 18 this year, upheld Bulkachuwa’s preliminary objection, dismissed the suit on the grounds that it was statute barred.
Justice Ojukwu held that the suit, being a pre-election one, was not filed within the 14 days prescribed by the Constitution, noting that the suit was filed over 14 days after the primary was conducted.
Tuggar appealed the decision at the Court of Appeal, Abuja, arguing that the trial court misunderstood his grievance because he did not challenge the outcome of the primary, which he claimed to have won, but the submission of Bulkacuwa’s name to INEC instead of his.
He argued that he filed his suit within time, prayed the Court of Appeal to reverse the decision of the Federal High Court and sack Bulkachuwa, requests the appellate court rejected in its judgment on June 11.
Justice Tinuade Akomolafe Wilson, who read the unanimous judgment of a three-man panel of the Court of Appeal, held that the suit was statute barred, having been filed outside 14 days stipulated in Section 285(9) of the 4th Alteration to the 1999 Constitution.
The Appeal Court also rejected Tuggar’s request to have the case heard on the merit, because the trial court only dismissed based on Bulkachuwa’s preliminary objection.
Justice Akomolafe-Wilson held that, since the 180 days within which a pre-election case must be determined by the trial court has elapsed, the Court of Appeal is not in a position to invoke its power to hear the suit on its merit.
“A time-frame is like an Iroko that cannot be moved. The appellant is praying the court to exercise a power it has no right to exercise. Once a matter is a statute barred, it is dead. The statute of limitation removes the right of litigation,” the judge said.
Tuggar, while reacting to the judgment, insisted that injustice has been done to him by the leadership of his party, but that he was determined to challenge the case up to the Supreme Court.
In a statement he issued through his lawyer, Chike Okafor, Tuggar said: “I won the Primary election of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Bauchi North Senatorial district election with over 54,000 votes cast at the said Primary election.
“Immediately after the conduct and conclusion of the said election wherein I won, Adamu Bulkachuwa wrote a petition stating that Primary elections were not held in Bauchi North senatorial district.
“I waited for my name to be announced as the winner of the said Primary election without any success, I wrote a petition to the party (APC) when I heard rumours that my name was not going to be announced as the winner of the said election.
“The party (APC) assured me that my name will be sent to INEC as the Senatorial candidate of the party in the 2019 general elections. Consequent upon this, I was given a nomination form by the party to fill, which I did.