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, husband of the court’s President, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa.
The APC leader in Buachi State, who said he won the party Senatorial primary election in Bauchi North Senatorial district with 54,000 votes, was reacting to the Court of Appeal judgment of June 11 this year, which affirmed Bukachuwa’s election and upheld the April 18, 2019 judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Tuggar had, in his suit at the Federal High Court, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1240/18 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 this year, upheld Bulkachuwa’s preliminary objection, 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, requests the appellate court rejected 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, while reacting to the judgment, insisted that injustice has 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 won the Primary election of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Bauchi North Senatorial district election with over 54,000 votes cast at the said Primary election.
“Immediately after the conduct and conclusion of the said election wherein I won, Adamu Bulkachuwa wrote a petition stating that Primary elections were not held in Bauchi North senatorial district.
“I waited for my name to be announced as the winner of the said Primary election without any success, I wrote a petition to the party (APC) when I heard rumours that my name was not going to be announced as the winner of the said election.
“The party (APC) assured me that my name will be sent to INEC as the Senatorial candidate of the party in the 2019 general elections. Consequent upon this, I was given a nomination form by the party to fill, which I did.
“I later realised that the party was not forth coming on my nomination as after I filled and submitted the said nomination form, nothing was heard from the party (APC) on the matter.
“I sent my lawyers to INEC to ascertain whose name was submitted wherein I was informed by my lawyers that it was the name of Alhaji Adamu Bulkachuwa that was submitted.
“I approached the Federal High Court, Abuja to ventilate my grievance, but to my utter shock the judge (Justice Ojukwu – Federal High Court – 7) held that my case was statute barred without going into the merits of my case, as against the litany of Supreme Court authorities on the subject, especially the need for a court to hear a case on the merits even if the court holds the case is statute barred.
“The Federal High Court, after delivering the judgement, held onto the judgement until two days to the expiration of our time to appeal before the judge signed the judgement.
“The Appeal registry of the Federal High Court, Abuja refused to transmit the Record of Appeal of the case on the excuse that they do not have enough time to transmit the record of appeal to the Court of Appeal.
“My lawyers transmitted the Record of Appeal to the Court of Appeal when we were almost caught up with the issue of filing our Notice of Appeal after the 14 days prescribed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
“I have realised that at every juncture on this my legal sojourn, It seems like I am not only struggling against Alhaji Adamu Bulkachuwa, but against the judicial establishment of Nigeria.
“This is a sad commentary on the state of affairs in our nation and how justice is no longer common but goes to the person with the longest leg.
“Today the Court of Appeal dismissed my appeal without considering the facts of my case. They even went further to state that they will not consider the merits of my case even after my lawyers made submissions to that effect.
“Indeed both the Federal High Court and the Court of Appeal have refused to hear my case on the merits.
“I believe that the refusal of both courts to hear my case on the merit is simply because hearing my case on the merit will expose the brazen theft of my mandate by Adamu Bulkachuwa.
“The courts have aided Adamu Bulkachuwa in his day light robbery of the mandate given to me by my people in Bauchi North Senatorial Zone.
“I call upon the judiciary to uphold the time honoured tenets of equity, justice and fair hearing.
“My mandate was stolen and given to Alhaji Adamu Bulkachuwa. The courts have at every juncture refused me access to ventilate my claim.
“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.”