The Damaturu Division of the Federal High Court in Yobe state Wednesday shut out Senate President Ibrahim Ahmad Lawan from contesting the 2023 National Assembly elections as candidate of Yobe North Senatorial District on the All Progressives Congress (APC) platform.
In his place, it declared Bashir Sheriff Machina as the authentic candidate of the APC for the senatorial district.
Following the judgement, the court ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to accept and publish Machina’s name accordingly.
With the judgement, Lawan, a ranking lawmaker who has been in the National Assembly since 1999, joined Senator Adamu Aliero and ex-Senate Leader Yahaya Abubakar Abdullahi whose elections were cancelled by the court in Kebbi state on the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)’s platform.
Giving her verdict in Damaturu, the presiding judge, Justice Fadima Murtala Aminu, affirmed Machina as the duly and validly elected candidate for APC, thereby upholding the May 28, 2022 primary election of the party that produced him.
She held that the “phantom election” that produced Lawan as the winner and candidate, was a “nullity” because INEC did not monitor the election.
The judge discountenanced the claim that the case was statue bar, saying the cause of action arose on June 17 not May 28.
She said Machina, the plaintiff, approached the court when he discovered that the first defendant, APC, had forwarded Lawan’s name to INEC as its candidate.
Aminu therefore, said the constitutional requirement of filing the case not later than 14 days from the election was not applicable.
“In the final analysis, the conditions for the validity of primary elections were fulfilled in the election of May 28, 2022, which produced the plaintiff. The phantom election of June 9 2022 which produced the second defendant is hereby declared invalid in view of the outline provision of the law of the very primary election.
“Consequently, the plaintiff has hereby declared the validly elected candidate of the first defendant of the Yobe North senatorial candidate of the first defendant conducted on 28/05/2022 for the 2023 general election.
“The first defendant is hereby ordered to prepare the name and details of the plaintiff to the third defendant as its rightful candidate. This is my decision,” the court ruled.
It could be recalled that, on June 22, Machina instituted the case, seeking an order to compel APC to declare him as the party’s candidate and send his name to INEC for publication.
Machina told the court that he won the May 28 primary election unopposed, declared winner by INEC and his certificate of return was duly issued to him.
The judgement was coming weeks after Machina distanced himself from notice of withdrawal from the race which has since gone viral.
A copy of the notice obtained by our correspondent showed a letter allegedly written by Machina addressed to the party’s National Chairman stating his withdrawal from the Yobe North senatorial race.
INEC had on August 9, 2022, reported that INEC denied recognising Lawan and Senator Godswill Akpabio as senatorial candidates of the APC, respectively.
Both Lawan and Akpabio had contested the APC presidential primaries. However, after losing, both of them were listed as senatorial candidates by the APC, but INEC refused to recognise them.
It’s rule of law – Machina
Meanwhile, Mr Machina has hailed the court ruling, describing it as a victory for justice.
He also called on all his supporters, and indeed the people of Yobe North, to remain peaceful, and united and not to engage in any form of provocation or molestation following the judgement.
A statement issued Wednesday by his media aide, Hussaini Mohammed Isa and made available to journalists in Maiduguri, said Machina declared the judgement as “no victor, no vanquished.”
The statement also called for immediate reconciliation of the two groups in Yobe North.
“I welcome the decision of the Judge of the Federal High Court, Damaturu, it is a victory that stands for justice. It is now time to set aside our differences and close ranks for the impending battle, the next war we must wage is the war for APC’s victory in the coming 2023 general elections.
“I am particularly happy that the administration of Governor Mai Mala Buni places much emphasis on reconciliation as a virile tool for peaceful co-existence, we must therefore embrace it and move forward,” he said.
Machina also thanked all his supporters for their fervent prayers and unflinching support saying, he will work hard if eventually elected as Senator to touch the lives of his constituents in a very positive way. (Additional report from Premium Times)