Binani prays court to allow tribunal decide petition before suspended REC’s prosecution

Sen. Aishatu Dahiru, the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate in the recent Adamawa election, urged a Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday to allow the election petition tribunal sitting in the state to deliver its verdict before the suspended Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Hudu Ari, is prosecuted.

Dahiru, also known as Binani, informed Justice Donatus Okorowo via her attorney, Chiesonu Okpoko, SAN, while adopting the procedures filed in her complaint.

Binani had sued the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Inspector-General of Police (I-G), and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) as first, second, and third respondents, respectively, in a suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/935/2023.
The applicant sought an interpretation of Section 144 of the Electoral Act of 2022, as well as a preservative order requiring parties to maintain the status quo awaiting the hearing and determination of the matter.

Binani’s attorney, Michael Aondoaka, SAN, called the judge’s attention to the fact that a petition was before an Adamawa Election Petition Tribunal and would be disposed of within 180 days in compliance with the law in an earlier ex-parte application filed and granted by the court on July 10.
However, the court, which did not prolong the interim order, set today for hearing on the originating summons served on the defendants.

During the resumed hearing, Okpoko, who represented Aondoaka, argued that the star witness for their client, Hudu Ari, was being harassed and prohibited from testifying before the tribunal, which, if prolonged, would damage their client’s case at the tribunal.
The lawyer asked the court to stop the respondents from prosecuting Hari until the tribunal decided on Binani’s appeal.

He argued that prosecuting the suspended REC now, while Binani was still challenging INEC’s declaration of Ahmadu Fintiri of the PDP as Adamawa governor after she had previously been declared the winner of the governorship election, would create a possibility of bias in the tribunal’s decision.

Okpoko went on to clarify that the petitioner was not arguing Ari should not be prosecuted, but that INEC and others should wait until the tribunal issued its decision within the 180-day period stipulated by law.

He claimed that INEC’s decision to file the action against anyone involved in Binani’s April 15 declaration as the winner of the supplementary poll in the state while the tribunal was yet to rule on their client’s petition would deprive her of Section 285(6) of the law, which provides 180 days for the petition filed on May 6 to be disposed of.

He stated that the parties in the complaint would not be harmed by waiting for the tribunal’s ruling.
He then begged the court to stop Ari’s prosecution and hear their case.
However, Adebisi Adeniyi, counsel to INEC who represented Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, disagreed with Okpoko’s statement.
Adeniyi contended that the charge levelled against the suspended REC was bailable, allowing him to testify before the tribunal.

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