The Supreme Court yesterday sacked the senator representing Taraba North, Sani Abubakar Danladi, and his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Herman Hembe, who represented Vandeikya/Konshisha Federal Constituency of Benue State from the National Assembly, ordering them to vacate their seats in both chambers with immediate effect.
The apex court also ordered them to refund all salaries and allowances they have so far received since their inauguration into the eight National Assembly within 90 days.
Meanwhile, the court has ordered the swearing in of Alhaji Shuaibu Isa Lau as the senator representing Taraba North, and Mrs. Dorothy Mato as the member, House of Representatives from Vandeikya / Konshisha Federal Constituency.
Justice Aminu Adamu Augie, who delivered lead judgment on the appeal filed by Lau, challenging the decision of the Court of Appeal that had upturned his victory at the primaries conducted by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2014, held that he was wrongfully substituted.
Other four members of the panel, headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onneghen, unanimously agreed with the judgment, insisting that the appellant has the right to participate, just like any other candidate in the primary and that if he feels his right was infringed upon, he also has the right to approach the court.
The Panel added that: “From the totality of the appeal before this court, all the issues are resolved in favour of the appellant. His substitution at the primary election is null and void.
“Since the appellant scored the highest number of votes, the only option is to declare the appellant as the winner of primaries.
“This court hereby orders that the appellant be issued with the Certificate of Return and the respondent should immediately vacate the seat.
“He should return to the National Assembly, all salaries and allowances received as a senator within 90 days.
The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, had dismissed the appeal filed by Lau challenging the candidacy of Danladi as the PDP flag bearer for the 2015 election on the account that nomination, sponsorship and substitution of candidate for election was a domestic affairs of a political party and that it was outside the jurisdiction of any court.
The appellate court held that as a court, it could impose candidate on a party.
It also held that Alhaji Garba Umar, who abandoned his primary election, was validly nominated and his subsequent substitution with Danladi by PDP was in total conformity with the Electoral Act 2010, as amended.
But the apex court yesterday upturned that decision when it held that the appellant, who contested the primary in 2014, has the legal right to challenge the decision of PDP, particularly as Danladi did not participate in the primary.
Similarly, in the second judgment prepared by Justice Onnoghen and read by Justice Augie, the Supreme Court upheld the appeal filed by Mrs. Mato against the decision of Court of Appeal, Makurdi Division, which held that she was the winner of the general election of held on March 28, 2015, for the constituency.
The court ordered that Hembe be replaced immediately with Mrs. Mato, the winner of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Hembe, who was re-elected into the House in 2015, was also ordered to return all salaries and benefits collected while in office within 90 days.
The court held that Mrs. Mato was the rightful winner of the APC ticket for the constituency.
It, therefore, ordered INEC to withdraw the Certificates of Return earlier issued to Danladi and Hembe and issue fresh ones Lau and Mato, respectively.