The Independent National Electoral Commission has backed the inauguration of Idris Wada as the governor of Kogi state.
In a statement by its chairman, Attahiru Jega, INEC said it studied the legal implications of the Friday January 28 Supreme Court ruling which sacked the governors of Sokoto, Kogi, Bayelsa, Cross River and Adamawa and decided Wada should be sworn in immediately.
Mr. Wada was sworn in by the state’s president of the Customary Court on Friday following the Supreme Court ruling which invalidated the reign of the former governor beyond May 28 2011.
Mr. Wada’s accession to the governor’s seat, however, took off on a shaky note after the state’s chief judge swore in the Speaker of the state house of assembly late on Friday, following a blanket order of the attorney general of the federation which ordered the outgoing governors to hand over to the speakers of their various assemblies.
Although Wada was pushed aside over the wekend, he continually gained the support of the federal government and the national leadership of his party.
After an overnight party meeting brokered by the Vice President, Namadi Sambo, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) ordered Abdullahi Bello, the acting governor, to hand over powers to Wada and return to his position in the House of Assembly.
“Wada is the governor, the speaker is the speaker,” Olusola Oke, PDP legal adviser told Premium Times Monday afternoon. “Wada should resume because he is properly elected and inaugurated…that is the party’s position!”
Three hours after assuming office in Lokoja, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared that Mr. Wada should be “sworn-in immediately” revalidating the earlier position of the vice president and the party.
INEC said it had studied the legal implications of the January 28 Supreme Court ruling which sacked the governors of Sokoto, Kogi, Bayelsa, Cross River and Adamawa before reaching its decision.
Attahiru Jega, INEC chairman, said Monday the December 3, 2011 Kogi governorship elections “is a concluded election,” contrary to expert arguments that the basis for the election was nullified by the Supreme Court ruling.
Acting governor hangs on
The acting governor, Abdullahi Bello, was sworn in as the acting governor of Kogi state by the chief judge of the state on the directives of the attorney general of the federation asking outgoing governors to handover to speakers.
The state’s chief judge swore Mr. Bello after Mr. Wada had taken his own oath of office as administered by the president of the state’s customary court of appeal.
The acting governor, armed with the oath administered by the chief justice of the state and backed by the position of the attorney general of the federation, vowed not to step down.
Shortly after the meeting with the vice president which he was said to have attended, Mr. Bello sent out a press statement refuting claims he had relinquished his position.
“The Acting Governor will not submit himself to any act that will be deemed to be an affront on the constitution to the Republic of Nigeria,” Mr Bello said in the statement. “Any attempt to undermine my authority is aimed at breaching the peace in the state.”
Apparently to stamp his authority in the state, the acting governor announced the sack of all political office holders in the state.
“Government, by this public announcement, hereby relieves the Secretary to the State Government, the Chief of Staff and all other political appointees of their appointments with immediate effect,” he said. “The affected officers are to hand-over all government properties in their possession to the Permanent Secretary or the most senior staff in their respective ministries or departments.”
Mr. Wada was elected Kogi state governor in December 2011 based on a time table predicated on the previous ruling by a Federal High Court, elongating the tenures of the five sacked state governors.
Lawyers have argued in favour of both sides, depending on which sides of the divide they are.