Ngilari’s takeover as governor changes Adamawa political calculations

Posted by News Express | 9 October 2014 | 5,372 times

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Barrister Bala James Ngilari took over the reins of power in Adamawa State yesterday, following a court judgement that nullified his resignation as deputy governor ahead of then-Governor Murtala Nyako’s impeachment in July.

He was sworn-in despite last-minute attempts by Alhaji Umaru Fintiri to hold on to power as acting governor by saying he would appeal the judgment of the Abuja Federal High Court.

The court, earlier in the day, ordered Fintiri to vacate office and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to put off the governorship bye-election scheduled for Saturday. INEC later announced that it would comply with the court ruling.

Ngilari had resigned in controversial circumstances minutes before Nyako’s impeachment in July, but he later challenged the resignation in court saying he was made to submit the letter to the Speaker of the House of Assembly instead of to the governor as provided by the constitution. The court yesterday ruled in his favour, saying Ngilari did not resign from office as deputy governor in line with section 306 (1) (2) and (5) of the 1999 Constitution as amended. It said with Nyako’s removal, Ngilari should step in.

Ngilari was sworn-in at the Government House in Yola by the President of the Customary Court of Appeal, Justice Audu Lagre, few hours after the court ruling.

In his address after taking the oath of office, the new governor said he would run an open, transparent and all-inclusive government.

“In this regard, I invite other arms of government, in particular the legislature and judiciary, not forgetting the civil service, to join hands with me to achieve these noble goals,” he said.

“As a party man and a team player, I pledge my unalloyed support and loyalty to our great party and Mr President,” Ngilari said, indicating that he remains in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). His former boss, Nyako, had defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

He described his emergence as an act of “God who gives power to whoever He chooses.”

In his first official function, the governor announced the appointment of Mr Chubado Tijjani as his Chief of Staff.

Drama in Yola

The news of Ngilari’s court victory broke as INEC stakeholders were holding a meeting in Yola with Fintiri, who was the PDP candidate for the now suspended bye-election, and candidates of six other parties.

INEC chairman Professor Attahiru Jega announced at the meeting that he just received information from Abuja that a court had restrained INEC from conducting the bye-election. He then called off the meeting.

A visibly shocked Fintiri and his associates left the venue to the Government House where hundreds of party supporters were gathering to register their support for him.

Soon after, Ngilari and his entourage arrived at the Executive Chambers of the Government House for swearing in ceremony.

Fintiri made frantic efforts through his lawyers and some powerful PDP chieftains in Abuja to abort Ngilari’s swearing in, but later realised that his efforts were futile. He then asked aides to hurriedly pack his personal belongings out of the Government House.

Some key members of Nyako’s cabinet led by the former Attorney General, Barrister Ibrahim Tahir, surfaced at the Government House as Fintiri was packing out.

A journalist who attempted to take photographs of Fintiri’s family members as they were moving out with belongings was manhandled by furious aides and security men. There was another drama when part of the crowd of Fintiri sympathisers abandoned him and moved to the Executive Chambers to witness the swearing in of the new governor Ngilari.

Counsel to Fintiri, Bayo Ojo (SAN), said in a statement that they will appeal the judgement.

“The implication of the appeal orders of the court cannot be complied with until the appeal process is disposed of,” he said.

“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.

“While we disagree with the reasoning of the learned judge the whole world knew that the former deputy governor did actually resign through his two letters of resignation to the speaker and the former governor respectively.”

‘Fintiri reverts to speaker’

With the swearing in of Ngilari as governor, Fintiri will return to his substantive post of speaker, subject to his acceptance by state lawmakers, according to senior lawyers Mike Ozekhome and Chris Uche.

“The implication of today’s judgment is that there should be an automatic reversal to status quo for Fintiri. However, if the House of Assembly members do not want him back, which is their sole discretion, they will have to impeach him first,” Ozekhome said.

But a lawyer, Barrister Sunday Wugira, said in Yola that since both Ngilari and Fintiri are from Madagali Local Area of Adamawa North, it would be against the principle of federal character for Fintiri to return to the post of speaker.

In an interview with journalists in Yola, APC presidential aspirant General Muhamadu Buhari said his party would respect the judgment as a law-abiding entity.

Also in a statement, Nyako’s spokesman Ahmad Sajo said the former governor has been vindicated as the judgement added weight to the position that the impeachment process was illegal.

“(Nyako) wishes to express satisfaction with the judgment passed by the Federal High Court in Abuja declaring that the former Deputy Governor Barr. Bala James Ngilari has not resigned as Deputy Governor,” he said.

PDP chairman in the state, Mr Joel Madaki, said both Fintiri and Ngilari are PDP members as such there was no cause for alarm.

Also commenting, spokesman for Adamawa APC, Rev. Phineas Padio, said the party will abide by the court judgment and wait for the 2015 election.

Changing calculus

The coming of Ngilari as governor has now changed the political calculus in Adamawa.

First, Fintiri has lost his chance to serve as substantive governor, at least for now.

The PDP candidacy he has obtained for the bye-election is also gone, and he is not certain of retaining it in the November governorship primaries for the 2015 election. He had already given an undertaking not to go for the ticket in November, but that was on the understanding that he would run in the now suspended bye-poll.

Another issue that may arise in the PDP is that other gubernatorial aspirants who contested with Fintiri in last month’s primaries are likely to also come back for the November primaries, even though they reportedly agreed not to participate.

In APC, there may be agitations for new governorship primaries since the nomination of Senator Jibrilla Bindo was meant for Saturday’s by-election.

•Credit: Daily Trust. Photo shows Governor Ngilari during his swearin in . . . yesterday in Yola.

Source: News Express

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