Attempts by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to arraign its suspended Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Hundu Yunusa-Ari, before Adamawa State High Court 9 sitting in Yola, suffeted a step back on Wednesday.
The trial Judge, Justice Benjamin Manji, drew the attention of the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, to the orders of Justice Donatus Okorowo of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, who ordered that parties should maintain the status quo ante bellum pending the hearing and determination of the matter.
Justice Manji further advised Rotimi Jacobs to go back to his clients ( INEC) and inform them that it would be an affront to the orders of Hon.Justice Okorowo, for the matter to proceed.
The judge added that for now, there was nothing the Adamawa State High Court sitting in Yola, could do pending the determination of the matter before the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Meanwhile, there was no llegal representation for the suspended Adamawa REC, Hudu Yunusa-Ari, when the matter was mentioned.
The Federal High Court in Abuja, had on Monday, suspended INEC from prosecuting the suspended Adamawa REC over his declaration of Aisha ‘Binani’ Dahiru, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, as governor in the March 18, 2023 poll.
Hon.Justice Donatus Okorowo gave the order after a former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Chief. Michael Aondoakaa, SAN, counsel to Senator Dahiru, moved the ex-parte motion to the effect.
In the ex-parte motion marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/935/2023, the APC candidate in the poll sued INEC, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and another as respondents.
Chief. Aondoakaa, SAN, leading alongside M S Diri, SAN and others, while moving the motion on Monday, argued that until the election petition tribunal decides his client’s fate per section 149 of the Electoral Act, 2022, the prosecution of Mr Yunusa-Ari cannot be valid.
He said the decision of INEC to file an action against any person involved in Senator Dahiru’s April 15, 2023 declaration as winner of the supplementary poll in the state when the tribunal was yet to determine the petition of his client would deprive her of section 285(6) of the law which gives 180 days within which the petition filed on May 6 should be dispensed with.
The senior lawyer informed the court that though a similar suit was filed before Justice Inyang Ekwo, where a judicial review of INEC’s action was sought, the sister court ordered the APC candidate to satisfy him as to whether his court has jurisdiction.The suit was withdraw after it was overtaken by events. Senator Dahiru approached the tribunal with her suit, having been an election-related matter.
Chief. Aondoakaa, SAN said an undertaking had been signed to prove to the court that the present suit was not frivolous.
He said in the undertaking that they were ready to face any cost should the court find the case to be frivolous.
After listening to Chief.Aondoakaa, SAN ,Hon. Justice Okorowo ordered the parties to maintain the status quo ante bellum pending the hearing and determination of the matter.
The judge, who adjourned the matter until July 18, 2023, for a hearing, ordered the respondents to show cause while the reliefs sought by Senator Dahiru should not be granted as prayed.
The judge further ordered accelerated hearing of matter in view of the urgency of the matter