The sack by the Supreme Court of Abubakar Danladi, the senator representing Taraba North, from the upper legislative chamber, on Friday was not only shocking but also enthralling.
The nation’s highest court which in 2014 saved Mr. Danladi’s political career has now thrown him into a fresh political turbulence.
In a unanimous judgement, the Court nullified Mr. Danladi’s election and declared his challenger, Shuaibu Lau, the winner of the 2014 primary election of the Peoples Democratic Party in the Taraba North Senatorial District.
It ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to issue a certificate of return to Mr. Lau.
“The appellant has the right to participate just like any other candidate in the primary and if he feels his right was infringed upon, he has the right to approach the court,” the five-member panel of the Court held.
“And 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 the primary.
The court asked Mr. Danladi to refund all salaries and allowances earned as a senator in the last 24 months within three months.
For Mr. Lau, it was a long road to victory.
In October 2015, the election petition tribunal in Jalingo, the Taraba State capital, had nullified Mr. Danladi’s election and pronounced him (Lau) as the winner of the primary. Mr. Lau had claimed that he was wrongfully substituted by the PDP.
The tribunal declared the primary “inconclusive,” saying it was in violation of the Electoral Act 2010.
It said there were irregularities in 48 polling units which disfranchised more than 36,000 eligible voters from participating in the poll.
It ordered fresh election in the 48 polling units spread across 13 wards in three local government areas in the senatorial district.
Dissatisfied with the judgement, Mr. Danladi challenged the decision of the tribunal at the Court of Appeal, which upturned Mr. Lau’s victory, prompting him (Lau) to proceed to the Supreme Court.
With the landmark judgement of the apex court, Mr. Danladi becomes the first to be sacked from the senate.
Before now some of his colleagues had been sacked by the lower court. The Court of Appeal had at different times nullified the elections of Bashir Marafa (Taraba Central), Uche Ekwunife (Anambra Central), and George Sekibo (Rivers East).
HISTORY AT SUPREME COURT
But Mr. Danladi’s case an interesting one. In 2014, the Supreme Court had restored him as the deputy governor of Taraba State after a legal battle that lasted about two years.
The embattled Mr. Danladi had been impeached from office in October 2012 following allegations of gross misconduct against him.
He was also accused among others of diverting projects to places he had personal interest, including his school.
The document containing the allegations reads, “By virtue of your being the deputy governor of Taraba State, you had easy access to the office of the Federal Government/World Bank’s Millennium Development Goals projects in the state and other state agencies
“And in that capacity, therefore, you used your office and influence and caused to be diverted MDGs facilities and street light projects to Yaggai Academy, a private school owned and operated by Yaggai Academy Limited, with you as the alter ego of the company and thereby denying the underprivileged members of the state access to and use of such facilities, and doing so contravenes the oath of office you sworn to.”
Despite challenging the integrity of its members by Mr. Danladi, the judicial panel constituted to investigate the allegations against the former deputy governor continued with its assignment and recommended his removal from office by impeachment.
Subsequently, 20 out the 24 members of State House of Assembly found him guilty of the allegations. Three of the lawmakers were absent from the sitting while the remaining one abstained from voting.
His principal, Danbaba Suntai, soon replaced Mr. Danladi with Garba Umar. That was shortly before Mr. Suntai was involved in a fatal plane crash that almost rendered him incapacitated.
Dissatisfied with the manner he was removed, Mr. Danladi proceeded to court to challenge his removal. After about two years, Mr. Danladi was reinstated by the Supreme Court.
The appeal panel of the court whose unanimous decision was read by Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, had the current Chief Justice of Nigeria, Samuel Onnoghen, Bode Rhodes-Vivour, Kumayi Aka’ahs, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun and John Okoro as members.
“In effect, at all material times, the appellant, Alhaji Sani Abubakar Danladi, remained and still remains the deputy governor of Taraba State and he is to resume his interrupted duties of his office,” the Supreme Court said on November 21, 2104.
“Impeachment of elected politicians is a very serious matter and should not be conducted as a matter of course it has implications for the impeached and the electorate, who bestowed the mandate on him.”
“Whether it takes one day or the three months prescribed by law, the rules of due process must be strictly followed.
“If the matter is left at the whims and caprices of politicians and their panels, a state or even the entire country could be reduced to a status of banana republic.”
Following the judgement, Mr. Danladi was to act as governor until 2015 when Mr. Suntai’s second term as governor ended. He was elected into the Senate on March 28, 2015.
With his sack, the political career of the embattled former senator and deputy governor has run into another hitch.