The Supreme Court, on Friday, in Abuja sacked the five state governors whom their tenure was earlier extended by a Federal High Court and the Court of Appeal beyond May 29,2011.
The affected governors are Ibrahim Idris of Kogi State; Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Timipre Sylva (Bayelsa), Aliyu Wamako (Sokoto) and Liyel Imoke (Cross River).
A full-panel of seven justices, led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Dahiru Musdapher, in a unanimous decision, held that their tenure â€œbegan on the 29th day of May, 2007 and terminated on the 28th day of May, 2011, being four years allowed by the 1999 Constitution.â€
In the lead judgement read by Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen, the court held that it was the election of the governors that was annulled by the tribunal, and not their oath of office, adding that the Constitution did not recognise a governor staying in office beyond eight years.
The judgement read in part â€œIt is the case of the respondents that since their elections in 2007 were nullified it meant that in law the said election never took place and as such the oaths of allegiance and of office they took in May 29,2007 became non-existent and that the oaths of allegiance and of office which is valid and relevant to the determination of the four years tenure is that which they took at various dates in 2008.
â€œI had earlier found and held that the provisions of Section 180 of the 1999 Constitution do not envisage a re-run election let alone a re-run election won by the same person who took the earlier oaths of allegiance and of office.
â€œI have also found and held that from the totality of the relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution including Section 180(1)(2)&(3) and 182(1)(b). A person first elected as governor of a state shall vacate his office at the expiration of a period of four years from the date he took the oath of allegiance and of office, though he could be re-elected for another term of four years, giving him a maximum of two tenures of eight years.
â€œFrom what i have been saying so far, it is clear that i am of the view that the provisions of Section 180(2) of the 1999 Constitution as amended is not relevant to the determination of the issue under considerations as the intention of the framers of the constitution of assigning four years tenure to the governors is clear from the language used in Sections 180(1)(2)&(3) and 180(2) can be described as a classification of what is,by the deployment of the tools of constitutional interpretation ,obvious and attainable as demonstrated in this judgement. The 1999 Constitution has no room for self succession for a cumulative tenure exceeding eight years.
â€œSupreme Court is not bound by the decision of the lower court, but the lower court is bound by the decision of the Supreme court.
â€œWhen the tribunal\courts so declare the election, the declaration does not affect the validity of the oaths the governor took so as to function in that office as required by the constitution neither would it affect the bills he signed into law, contracts awarded, budgets etc.
â€œIt, therefore, means that the consequences of the annulled election is different from null and void proceeding or act which is usually described as being incurably bad and of no effect whatsoever.
â€œI hold the considered view that to uphold the validity of the acts of the governors in office prior to the nullification of their election and reject the period they spent in office during which time they performed those acts in the determination of the period of their tenure is contrary to common sense and the clear intention of the framers of the constitution.
â€œThe fact that there was an election in 2007 as a result of the which the governors took their oath of allegiance and of office are facts which cannot be wished away, just as they performed while occupying the seat.
â€œThe said governors may not have been the de jure governors following the nullification of their election, which is not supported by the acceptance of their acts in that office as legal and binding on all and sundry, they were certainly governors de facto during the period they operated ostensibly in accordance with the provisions of the constitution and Electoral Act and as such period they so operated has to be taken into consideration in determining the terminal date of their tenure following what I may call their second missionary journey vide a re-run election particularly as the constitution unequivocally grants tenure of four years to a person elected governor of a state calculated from the date he took the oaths of allegiance and of office which was the May 29, 2007.
Following the judgment, the Federal Government, on Friday, directed Speakers of the State Houses of Assembly of the affected states to take control as acting governors.