DEPUTY to Vice Admiral Murtala Nyako (retd), the impeached governor of Adamawa State, Mr James Ngilari, was, on Wednesday, sworn in as the state governor.
This was after the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja sacked the acting governor, Honourable Ahmadu Fintiri.
The trial Judge, Justice Ademola Adeniyi, made the order while delivering judgment in the suit brought before it by Ngilari, asking the court to order that he should be sworn in as the substantive governor of the state, following the impeachment of Governor Murtala Nyako on July 15.
The court sacked Fintiri as acting governor and also directed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to halt the planned governorship bye-election slated for Saturday.
At the Executive Council Chambers of the Government House, Yola, the oath of office was administered on Ngilari by the president of the Customary Court of Appeal, Justice Audu Lagre.
In his address after the ceremony, Governor Ngilari charged the people of the state to join hands with him to move the state forward, adding that “power belongs to God.”
While announcing Alhaji Tijjani Chubado, a former chairman of Madagali Local Government Area as his Chief of Staff, he said he would abide by the oath of his office.
He promised to run an open-door administration, while he also promised the aged, women and the youth a solid empowerment package.
In attendance were the Minister of Youth, Mr Boni Haruna; a former governor of the state, General Buba Marwa and former Plateau State military governor, Commodore Dan Suleiman (retd), among others.
As the news of Fintiri’s sack filtered through to Adamawa, INEC had to cut short its earlier scheduled all stakeholders’ meeting holding at Muna Hotel, Yola.
The main hall of the hotel had been filled up with the representatives of all the seven contending political parties and other party stakeholder.
The INEC team from Abuja, led by its chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega and the security agencies, including the police, led by the Inspector General of Police, Suleiman Abba, had seated for the meeting to commence.
Professor Jega, in a short speech, acknowledged the receipt of an information from the Legal Department of INEC that the court had ordered that the bye-election should stop.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I have just received a call from my director, Legal Department in Abuja that a Federal High Court has ruled that we should stop any activity towards Saturday governorship bye-election.
“As a law abiding organisation, we shall comply with the court directives in this regard. We shall inform you on other steps. Thanks,” he said.
Reacting, state chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Joel Madaki, said the party was not bothered about the development, adding that it was all democratic process.
He said the PDP, as a law abiding party, would abide by the court’s pronouncement.
At the Government House, Yola, a five-man delegation from the PDP Abuja headquarters, which included former Senate President, Chief Ken Nnamani and a former speaker, House of Representatives, Alhaji Ghali Umar Na’Abba, met with Fintiri and some other party chieftains.
Earlier, the Federal Government has ordered the swearing-in of Mr Ngilari as the substantive governor of Adamawa State, following the court ruling.
It also advised INEC to put in abeyance, all arrangements made for the bye-election in the state.
The position of government was contained in a statement distributed to State House correspondents in Abuja, on Wednesday, by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke.
Signed by the chief press secretary to the minister, Adedeji Ajibade, the statement said “In obedience to the judgment of the court and the need to avert a vacuum in governance and possible constitutional crises, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Mohammed Bello Adoke, hereby calls on the Chief Judge of Adamawa State to immediately swear in Barrister Ngilari as the governor of Adamawa State.”
How Fintiri lost out
Last week Friday, Fintiri held a crisis meeting with his close associates and legal team, following credible information at his disposal that his days were numbered as the state helmsman, Nigerian Tribune has learnt.
Nigerian Tribune was informed that at the said meeting, Fintiri shared with attendees, classified information made available to him by sources within the judiciary, the central government and the powers-that-be in the PDP that his ouster had been concluded and would be given vent by the presidency.
A source in the know of the said meeting revealed that Fintiri was worried, despite assurances from those at the meeting, because those who reportedly briefed him were credible sources within the power configuration in Abuja.
Though assured he had a good case, since the erstwhile deputy governor, Ngilari, reportedly routed another resignation through the sacked Governor Nyako to the House of Assembly, as demanded by the law, Nigerian Tribune learnt that Fintiri was expecting the judgment to go against him, considering the alleged well-woven plots to exit him from office as governor and get him to revert to his original position as the speaker of the House of Assembly.
Despite appealing the judgment sacking him and filing a motion for stay of orders of the court, pending the appeal, the presidency ordered Ngilari sworn in as governor.
Sources in Fintiri’s camp told the Nigerian Tribune that the position of the presidency was not completely surprising, though the sacked acting governor still reportedly fought bravely to halt the negative tide during Sallah break.
Fintiri’s main sin was said to be a statement credited to him, which gave him away on his alleged plan to breach the gentleman agreement the leadership of the party had with aspirants on the platform of PDP from the state.
The aspirants had agreed that those who chose to participate in the party primaries for the now-cancelled governorship bye-election would be automatically barred from the 2015 contest.
The primaries was won by Fintiri, after the former chairmn of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu and others withdrew from the race.
However, after Fintiri secured the ticket, he publicly said only God would determine whether he would participate in the 2015 governorship election or not.
The powers-that-be in the ruling party, which had reportedly settled for Ribadu for the 2015 polls, were said to have been taken aback by Fintiri’s perceived resolve to breach the gentleman agreement, with a source disclosing that the top lawmaker became a marked man from the moment.
It was also learnt that the Ngilari’s suit became a major tool to shove him aside, because it was reasoned that the party leadership and the presidency might not be able to contain him again, if he was allowed to win the governorship contest.
With Ngilari still a member of the PDP, having refused to defect with Nyako to the All Progressives Congress (APC), the decision to shove Fintiri aside was said to be an easy one for those behind the alleged plots, as the ruling party would not be losing the state to the opposition.
Ngilari’s decision not to defect from PDP also reportedly counted in his favour as a loyal party man, unlike Fintiri who allegedly gave himself away as someone that could not be trusted.
Meanwhile, Fintiri has appealed the judgment, with a source in his camp disclosing that the judgment might lead to a petition to the National Judicial Council (NJC) against Justice Ademola Adeniyi, due to alleged controversial circumstances surrounding the process leading to its delivery on Wednesday.
Speaking through his lead counsel, the former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Bayo Ojo, Fintiri said the correct position of the law was to wait for the outcome of appeals on a matter.
“In response to my reaction sought in respect of the judgment of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja a little while ago, I can confirm that we have the instruction of our client, the acting governor of Adamawa State, to appeal the said judgment and we have immediately filed the appeal. We have, in addition, filed a motion for stay of the orders of the court, pending appeal,” Ojo said.
INEC suspends bye-election
The INEC, on Wednesday, announced the suspension of all preparations relating to the conduct of the Adamawa State governorship bye-election, citing the ruling of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja.
In a statement made available to newsmen in Abuja by the chief press secretary to the chairman of the commission, Mr Kayode Idowu, the commission said “in compliance with the court order, INEC hereby suspends all preparations for the conduct of governorship bye-election in Adamawa State, scheduled to hold on Saturday.”
PDP accepts verdict
The leadership of PDP, on Wednesday, accepted the verdict of the High Court that ordered that Ngilari be sworn in as governor.
Briefing newsmen in Abuja on the official position of the party, its national publicity secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, said the party had looked at the judgment and had resolved to abide by it.
According to Metuh, “the PDP is a law-abiding party and we have, therefore, advised our members to obey accordingly.”
On the agreement reached among other aspirants who stepped down for Fintiri to emerge as the candidate of the party in the now cancelled governorship bye-election, Chief Metuh said the party would look into that at the appropriate time.
APC, Atiku, others hail decision
Reacting, Adamawa chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) said the judgment was a welcome political development for the state.
The state chairman of APC, Madam Binta Garba, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Yola, on Wednesday, that with the outcome of Ngilari’s case, the party was hopeful that Nyako, who was also challenging his removal, would return.
“One down, we are looking to the next judgment regarding Nyako with full hope. Once more, the judiciary deserves commendation for checking impunity,” Garba said.
“We will ask dignitaries yet to arrive to stop coming, but our standard-bearer will go to the venue now to show appreciation to party faithful that turned up for the rally,” he said.
Members of staff of the deputy governor’s office, were seen jubilating over the development, while in other government offices and the state capital, people gathered in groups discussing the matter.
Former vice president and presidential aspirant of APC, Atiku Abubakar, on Wednesday, said even as “he is bound as a democrat to abide by Wednesday’s verdict stopping Saturday’s governorship bye-election in Adamawa State,” it has only delayed the overwhelming desire of the people of the state to vote out the PDP government in the state.
Atiku, in a statement made available to newsmen in Abuja by his media office on Wednesday, said the verdict of the court had inevitably delayed the ouster of the PDP whenever the election was held.
Former member of the House of Representatives, Dino Melaye, said the rule of law was upheld by the judgment that sacked Fintiri.
According to Melaye, it was a wrong that had been corrected.
“That’s the rule of law; the court has ruled and we in the APC believe that the rule of law was upheld. We are happy about that. The situation has been ameliorated,” he said.
Former Speaker, Ondo State House of Assembly, Mr Abdulsalam Olawale, said aggrieved parties could appeal against the court order.
The former speaker told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday in Abuja that the only option left for the Adamawa House of Assembly, INEC or other parties involved was to appeal.
In the same vein, former deputy speaker, Cross River House of Assembly, Mr Orok Duke, said the development was healthy for democracy.
Duke, who described the action of Fintiri as ambitious, said he had no business taking over as acting governor.
A civil rights activist, Steve Aluko, said the ruling was a good development for the rule of law.
He advised the legislative arm of government to always carry out its oversight functions with caution.