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.
The Bauchi State APC leader was reacting to the Court of Appeal judgment of June 11, which affirmed Bukachuwa’s election and upheld the April 18, 2019 judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Tuggar insisted that he won the party’s senatorial primary election in Bauchi North with 54,000 votes.
He had, in his suit at the Federal High Court, 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, upheld Bulkacuwa’s preliminary objection and 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.
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But, the appellate court rejected the request 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 statute barred, it is dead. The statute of limitation removes the right of litigation,” the judge said.
Tuggar, reacting to the judgment, insisted that injustice had 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 shall approach the Supreme Court of Nigeria to ventilate my claims and I hope and pray that God will guide them in their deliberations in arriving at the justice of my case.”
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