C’ River guber: You don’t have powers to stop election, INEC tells judge
From GODWIN TSA, Abuja
Friday February 24, 2012

The controversy surrounding Saturday’s governorship election in Cross River State continued yesterday at a Federal High Court even as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said the court presided over by Justice Abdul Kafarati lacked the powers to stop it from conducting the scheduled election.

Kafarati had earlier granted an ex-parte application restraining the electoral body from proceeding with the conduct of the election, a development, which sparked off controversy both within and outside the judiciary circles.

At yesterday’s proceedings, Justice Kafarati who had been in the eye of the storm since granting the exparte application refused an invitation from the plaintiffs for status quo ante bellum to be maintained with respect to the conduct of the said election.
Counsel to INEC, Ibrahim Bawa, at the resumed hearing of the motion exparte filed by the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and its governorship candidate in Cross River State, Dr. Obol Patrick Okomiso seeking an order restraining INEC from conducting tomorrow’s election in the state, said in his submission that Section 87 (11) of the Electoral Act says the court had no power to stop INEC from conducting an election.

“The plaintiffs are indirectly telling the court to ignore the rule by asking it to restrain INEC from going ahead with the Saturday’s election in Cross River state”, he added. Meanwhile, the court granted the application brought before it by former governor Liyel Imoke and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), seeking to be joined in the matter.
While adjourning further hearing on the matter till March 19, 2012, the trial judge, Justice Abdul Kafarati directed that parties be put on notice and refused plaintiffs, application for status-quo to be maintained.

The ANPP and its governorship candidate, filed a motion exparte seeking an order stopping INEC from conducting governorship election in Cross River State on Saturday on the ground that INEC had no power to reschedule the election to less than 48 days to the initial date fixed for the said election.

According to them, the election had been earlier scheduled by INEC to hold on April 14 in view of the mandatory timetable set by the Electoral Act for submission of names and addresses of party candidates for that election.
They argued that, “apart from the inconvenience to the parties of suddenly shortening the period they had already taken for granted as available for their preparations for the election, the abridgment of time is null and void and would be a ground for nullifying the election, if conducted.”

They also asked the court for an order directing INEC to maintain status quo, that is as at February 15 to refrain from taking further action or steps regarding the revised timetable for the conduct of the election into the office of governor of Cross River State pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed on February 15 in the proceedings.
In an affidavit attached to the application, ANPP said INEC’s reason that it brought the election forward because of the judgment of the Supreme Court, which removed five state governors from office, was not tenable in law.

“That the Supreme Court judgment did not place any constraint on INEC to abridge or tamper with the timetable it had set on August 11, 2011 for the governorship election in Cross River State nor has it created any situation which the 1999 Constitution cannot cope with, as the governor and his deputy duly vacated their position pursuant to the judgment and the speaker of the House of Assembly has taken over as governor pursuant to Section 191(2) of the constitution,” the affidavit added.

They further explained that the speaker, under the constitution could act as governor for a period of 90 days until elections were held and a new governor sworn in and there was no need for INEC to conduct an election immediately.
They said: “The applicants will be prejudiced if the election is brought forward to February 25 as INEC now proposes, because the validity of the nomination of the 2nd plaintiff will be jeopardized by non-compliance with Section 31(1) of the Electoral Act 2010.”

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