No fewer than Six Governorship seats are presently tottering on shaky legs as the Supreme Court on Monday, January 13, 2020, suspended the hearing of the appeals from six states of the federation, challenging the electoral validity which conferred legitimacy on the mandate of the present incumbents in those states.
Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad announced the suspension of hearing, due to the sudden illness of one of the judges among the seven-member panel of Supreme Court Justices hearing the appeals.
The six appeals before the apex court are from the March 9 governorship elections in Imo, Bauchi, Sokoto, Kano, Plateau and Benue states and they were brought by various aggrieved candidates, who are dissatisfied and are contesting earlier rulings by the Court of Appeal in the affected states governorship petitions.
Recall that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared governors Emeka Ihedioha (Imo), Bala Mohammed (Bauchi), Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Simon Lalong (Plateau) and Samuel Ortom (Benue) as winners of governorship elections in their respective states, but several petitions against the declarations as well as other election related issues, had commenced at the various states Tribunals and proceeded to the respective jurisdictional Courts of Appeal before landing at the Supreme for the final judgement.
Today’s Apex Court sitting, which started around 9:a.m. had witnessed some drama when the high noise level in the courtroom, due to over crowding, ensured that the hearing could not proceed smoothly.
This prompted the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, to give an order to the security operatives to control the crowd and decongest the courtroom of politicians and their supporters, who had besieged the Apex court premises since 6am, to witness the day’s proceedings.
The seven-member panel then rose with the intention to reconvene once the noise inside the court is reduced and Justice Mohammed also directed lawyers representing the parties in each appeal not to appear with more than five lawyers, in order to decongest the courtroom.
The sitting reconvened about half an hour later, after the police had deployed a dog to assist in the decongestion of the courtroom and the lawyers involved in the Kano State appeal, which was first on the list, announced appearance.
Proceedings were however brought to an abrupt end just after the lead counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC), Joseph Daudu, stood up to make his argument, when the CJN announced to the filled court that one of the justices hearing the case is critically sick.
“Due to unforeseen circumstances beyond control, the court will abruptly rise because one of us is sick,” the CJN announced to an astonished courtroom and subsequently led the other justices out of the court to their chambers, ostensibly to attend to the ailing judge whose name was not disclosed.
About an hour later, one of the registrars of the court announced that all proceedings in the day’s case have been adjourned to Tuesday, January 14, when the apex court will reconvene to hear the appeals and either deliver judgement or announce a date for the judgement.