The Court of Appeal Abuja division has declined to sack the newly inaugurated senator for Bauchi North senatorial district, Alhaji Adamu Bulkachuwa, following an allegation that he was handpicked by the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to contest the senatorial election, after he lost at the primaries.
The lawmaker, who was the husband of Court of Appeal President, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, was allegedly nominated by the party to replace the supposed winner of the primary election that held on October 3, 2018, Alhaji Usman Tuggar. Dissatisfied with the action, Tuggar, dragged the party before the Federal High Court, Abuja, alleging that Bulkachwa was illegally nominated to vie for the senatorial seat. In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1240/08, the plaintiff urged the high court to declare that he was the valid winner of the APC primary election and therefore ought to have his name forwarded to the Indepen-dent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Among other reliefs, he prayed the court to restrain the electoral body from recognising Bulkachuwa as the bona-fide flag bearer of the APC for the Bauchi North senatorial district election that was held on February 23. Meanwhile, the high court, in a judgement it delivered on April 18, dismissed the suit, saying it was statute barred since the plaintiff failed to institute the action within 14 days after APC forwarded Bulkachuwa’s name to INEC.
Not satisfied with the high court judgement, the plaintiff proceeded to the Court of Appeal where he also lost on Tuesday. The appellant had prayed the appellate court to invoke section 15 of the Court of Appeal Act to hear and determine his case on its merit. He maintained that the trial court failed to properly evaluate evidence as well as incontrovertible facts that were brought before it by the parties. He argued that the suit he filed on October 30, which was a day he got information that Bulkachuwa’s name was forwarded to INEC instead of his own, was within the 14-day time limit.
He said the cause of action occurred on October 19, when he became aware that his name was substituted. However, in a unanimous judgement, a three-man panel of the appellate court led by Justice Tinuade Akomolafe- Wilson upheld the high court’s verdict. Delivering the lead judgement on Tuesday, Justice Akomolafe-Wilson, held that the suit, being a pre-election matter, was filed outside the 14-day time limit that was stipulated in section 285(9) of the 4th Alteration to the 1999 Constitution. The appellate court noted that the appellant had in a petition he wrote to the APC leadership on October 9, said he was shocked to hear an announcement that Bulkachuwa was the winner of the senatorial ticket. The appellate court held that the cause of action arose from the day the appellant admitted that he heard and became aware of Bulkachuwa’s nomination.
“Considering when appellant became aware of his exclusion as validly nominated candidate, the suit had become statute barred. “Any suit filed outside the time frame is statute barred,” Justice Akomolafe-Wilson held. The court stressed that though section 87(4) of the Electoral Act provided that the name of an aspirant with highest number of votes at the primary election should be forwarded to INEC, it held that forwarding of the name was an event that occurred after the primary election the appellant complained of. “The period will begin to run after the cause of action arose and not after subsequent event.
“The date of occurrence of the event complained of is certainly October 9. “All the respondents filed counter-affidavits to oppose appellant’s claim that he won the primary election. “The appellant did not place any Certificate of Return before the trial court to prove that he won the primary.
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