Legal Challenge Against Prosecution of Suspended Electoral Commissioner Dismissed
A Federal High Court in Abuja has dismissed a legal suit filed by Senator Aisha Binani, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Adamawa State.
Binani’s suit sought to halt the prosecution of the suspended Adamawa Resident Electoral Commissioner, Hudu Yunusa-Ari.
Interpretation of Electoral Act Sections Sought
Senator Aisha Binani’s suit was filed in response to a motion ex parte.
In response to this motion, the court issued an interim order, directing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to maintain the “status quo” in their plan to prosecute Hudu.
Legal Basis for the Challenge
The suit filed by Binani’s lawyer, M. K. Aondoakaa, SAN, sought the interpretation of Sections 144 and 149 of the Electoral Act 2022. Section 144 and 149 of the Electoral Act 2022 pertain to the Commission’s consideration of recommendations made by a tribunal regarding the prosecution of individuals for offenses related to election petitions.
The sections also address defects or errors arising from actions taken by an official of the Commission.
Objective of Restraining the Prosecution
Binani aimed to restrain the parties involved from prosecuting Hudu while he was serving as her star witness at the Adamawa Tribunal.
The Tribunal proceedings were ongoing, and this legal challenge was intended to halt the prosecution.
Outcome of the Court’s Decision
However, the INEC’s lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs, argued that Binani’s application was an academic exercise aimed at preventing a court of coordinate jurisdiction from carrying out its functions.
In his judgment, Justice Donatus U. Okorowo lifted the interim order, stating that there was no order extending the lifespan of the order on maintaining the “status quo.”
The judge emphasized that it was not permissible under the law for a plaintiff to approach the Federal High Court to stop proceedings at a court of coordinate jurisdiction.
He noted that he lacked the power to bind a court of coordinate jurisdiction.
The court’s decision to dismiss the legal challenge underscores the principle of judicial independence and the limited authority of one court to interfere with the proceedings of another court of similar jurisdiction.
It highlights the importance of respecting the separation of powers in the legal system and allowing the judicial process to proceed unhindered.