THE political climate in Adamawa State changed dramatically yesterday, when embattled Deputy Governor, James Bala Ngilari was sworn in as governor.
The swearing-in followed the ruling of a Federal High Court in Abuja which declared the seat of the former Acting Governor, Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri as illegal and unlawful.
Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke directed the Chief Judge of Adamawa State to immediately swear-in Ngilari as governor of the state in obedience to the court judgement.
Adoke, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Adedeji Ajibade, also called on the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ‘keep in abeyance all arrangements made for the conduct of bye-elections scheduled for Saturday.
President of Adamawa Customary Court of Appeal, Justice Lawan A. Lagre performed the swearing in ceremony as the tenure of the Acting Chief Judge, Justice Mammadi Ambrose expired, yesterday.
Speaking after taking oath, Governor Bala Ngilari described his emergence as the will of God.
“Let me state without fear of contradiction that my emergence is by the will of God. I will therefore put the fear of God first in all I do as I remain the Governor of Adamawa State”, he stated. He solicited the support of all stakeholders in the Adamawa project, stressing that the task ahead needs collective collaboration of all to take the state to the next level.
Ngilari identified insecurity, unemployment, poverty and other social vices as the major issues bedevilling the state, stressing that all hands must be on deck if the problems were to be tackled.
Loyalty to Jonathan, PDP
Pledging his absolute loyalty to President Goodluck Jonathan, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the party’s National chairman and members of the Board of Trustees, he urged them to rally round his administration to achieve the needed results.
How Adamawa received Fintiri’s ouster
Earlier in the day, when reports started filtering into the state that the Acting Governor, Fintiri had been sacked, complete disquiet enveloped the state capital, especially Government House, the seat of government.
People gathered in groups to discuss the frequent political changes in the state, saying that the trend will not augur well for the needed rapid development of the state.
Secretary to the State Government, SSG, Prof. Abdullahi Liman Tukur lamented that the state was jinxed with frequent political changes that were inimical to its growth.
“In short, the hands of Adamawa clock has been reversed. It will take a decade or more for Adamawa to recover from the present political mess.” He said the people of Adamawa State under Fintiri had resolved to carry the state to the next level, but all of a sudden a new quagmire has been thrown into the state’s political development.
Adamawa State PDP Chairman, Chief Joel Madaki described the scenario as normal in politics, saying it is a PDP affair.
Some members of the PDP National delegation to the October 11 aborted bye-election, which included former Senate President, Ken Nnamani and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Ghali Umar Na’abba described the development in Adamawa State as normal in politics.
Among those at the swearing-in event were former Adamawa State governor and present Minister of Youth Development, Mr. Boni Haruna; Brigadier-General Mohammed Buba Marwa (rtd), Air Commodore Dan Suleiman (rtd), former Deputy Governor, Mr. Wilberforce Juta and Alhaji Muhammadu Kwaranga Jada.
Moments after assuming power, the governor named a former chairman of Madagali Local Government Council, Mr. Chubado Tijjani, as his new Chief of Staff.
Tortuous road to power
Ngilari was comfortable as deputy governor until impeached Governor Murtala Nyako left the PDP for the All Progressives Congress (APC). Ngilari opted to remain in the PDP, which still controls the majority in the state House of Assembly.
Before long, the House decided to impeach Nyako with a promise to save Ngilari if he resigned. He agreed and tendered his resignation letter to then Speaker Fintiri.
However, when Nyako was impeached, Fintiri was sworn-in as acting governor amid controversies that Ngilari, a lawyer by training should occupy the post because his resignation letter should have been tendered to the governor and not the speaker.
This was the matter that Ngilari took to the law courts for adjudication, contending that he never validly relinquished his position as deputy governor and the courts answered his prayers.
Indeed, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, yesterday, sacked Fintiri from office and ordered that Ngilari be sworn-in immediately as governor and stopped the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, from going ahead with its plans to conduct a bye-election in the state on Saturday.
The court maintained that in-line with the provisions of sections 306 (1), (2) and (5) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, the purported resignation of Ngilari on July 14, 2014, was invalid, null and void, noting that contrary to the constitution, the letter, was addressed to the Speaker and acted upon by the Adamawa State House of Assembly.
It will be recalled that sequel to the said resignation letter, the Adamawa State House of Assembly had on July 15 declared Ngilari’s office vacant after it impeached Murtala Nyako.
In his judgement, Justice Adeniyi observed that the purported resignation letter upon which Ngilari was ousted from office, was written at a time when Nyako still held sway as Governor, stressing that the letter ought to have gone through Nyako, instead of the Speaker or the State Assembly.
The court held that the failure of the letter to pass through the proper constitutional channel rendered it invalid, null and void.
Specifically, the court, declared that by the combined provisions of Section 306 (1), (2) and (5) of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), “the plaintiff , as Deputy Governor of Adamawa State, did not resign his office by addressing a letter of resignation dated 15th July, 2014 to the first defendant (Speaker, Adamawa State House of Assembly)”.
The court held that the purported resignation of the Deputy Governor of Adamawa State did not take effect when the said letter of resignation was received by the Speaker on July 15, 2014.
Justice Ademola said he took judicial notice of the fact that Nyako, in an affidavit of fact he deposed before the court through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Ahmad Sajoh, categorically stated that the Deputy Governor did not tender any resignation letter to him, a fact it said was also corroborated by Ngilari himself.
The court held that Fintiri, having stayed in office for almost three months, ought to have furnished it with any document showing that Nyako saw and acknowledged Ngilari’s resignation.
“In view of the foregoing, it is the opinion of this court that all the documents purportedly indicating that the plaintiff tendered his resignation letter are of doubtful origin, full of inconsistencies and are hereby discountenanced”, the judge added.
Nyako rejoices, Fintiri appeals as INEC suspends by-election
Reacting to the development, Nyako, who has not been seen in public since his ouster, yesterday, expressed satisfaction with the judgement.
He said in a statement made available to Vanguard last night that the court verdict was a clear indication that the entire episode leading to his removal and forced resignation of Ngilari were a farce.
This came as Fintiri filed a notice of appeal against his removal from office and the inauguration of Ngilari as governor.
In the same vein, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, yesterday, suspended the planned bye-election in the state slated for Saturday in deference to the court verdict.
A statement from the commission signed by its Acting Secretary, Mr. H. Adamu, noted that its action was predicted on the ruling of the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Nyako, who worked with Ngilari to claim his victory, pointed out that the victory was a first step in the judicial process of correcting the wrongs carried out by the Adamawa State House of Assembly against him and his deputy.
Nyako, in the statement by his Director of Press and Public Affairs, Mr. Ahmed Sajoh, congratulated Ngilari on his victory and hoped that the judiciary would soon return him to his seat since his removal was also illegal.
The former governor said: Fintiri’s sack is a further testimony to the fact that the entire process associated with the purported impeachment saga had been series of acts characterized by extreme illegality and political brigandage.
“Buoyed by a system that promotes impunity and abuse of all legal and constitutional procedures, the lawmakers in Adamawa State took it upon themselves to abuse all known legal norms to enthrone a regime anchored on illegalities.
“We wish to observe that this is the first step in the judicial process of correcting the wrongs of the Adamawa State House of Assembly. We are confident that the Nigerian judiciary will further confirm the injustices associated with the purported removal of Governor Murtala Nyako which was done in a manner akin to a civilian coup d’état.
“The process of the reversal of all the series of illegalities connected with the supposed impeachment saga has only just commenced and will continue until it culminates in the return of Governor Nyako to Government House, Yola.”
Congratulating Ngilari on his success at the court, Nyako advised him to take up the responsibilities of his new office with his famed patience and humility. “He should be mindful of the nature of Adamawa State as a diverse and plural society and therefore rule the people with justice, fairness and the fear of God. Finally we call on the people of Adamawa State to remain calm, law abiding and to extend all necessary support to the new leadership and to wish Barr Bala Ngillari success and God’s guidance in his new assignment.”
Meanwhile, Fintiri claimed yesterday that he had filed an appeal against his sack by the Federal High Court.
Fintiri’s lawyer is said to have also filed for a stay of execution of the judgement in favour of Ngilari pending the hearing of the appeal.
According to an aide of the sacked acting governor , the case was filed shortly after the verdict by his counsel, Chief Bayo Ojo (SAN).
A statement from the chambers said: “The Adamawa State Ag. Governor Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri has appealed the judgement of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja delivered a little while ago. The Acting Governor’s lawyers have already filed an appeal against the said judgement. We have in addition filed a motion for stay of the orders of the court pending appeal.
“The implication of this is that the orders of the court cannot be complied with until the appeal process is disposed of. This is the position of the law as the law allows anyone who is challenging an order of a court not to obey such order until his constitutional right of appeal is exhausted. This is to forestall a situation where a fait accompli will be foisted on the appeal court,” Ojo said.
PDP accepts ruling
However, the PDP yesterday accepted the judgement of the Federal High Court and urged the new governor to ensure peace and progress in the state.
Speaking with journalists yesterday in Abuja, PDP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, disclosed that at the end of its National Working Committee, NWC meeting, the party agreed that since it was not a party to the suit, considering any appeal will not be feasible, adding that it would look at the earlier agreed zoning arrangement reached prior the ruling.
Atiku, Agbakoba, Okocha, Akeredolu, others react
The development elicited widespread reactions yesterday from leading lawyers and politicinas.
It’s the right thing to do—Akeredolu
Former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Chief Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) said the decision to swear-in Ngilari was a welcome development. “That is the right thing to do if he has been sworn-in by the Chief Judge of the state to take over the functions of governing the state to act as governor. That is how it is done pending the suit brought by the impeached governor over his impeachment. That is the law.”
Verdict only delayed wishes of the people to oust PDP – Atiku
Former Vice President and presidential aspirant on the banner of the APC, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar said the court judgement that brought back the former Deputy Governor of Adamawa State, Bala Ngilari as Governor of the state has only delayed the overwhelming desire of the people of the state to vote out the PDP government in the state.