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Nigeria: Court of Appeals Upholds High Court Ruling, No Gubernatorial Elections in Five States

(Apr. 18, 2011) On April 15, 2011, the Court of Appeals in Abuja, Nigeria, upheld a February 23, 2011, Federal High Court ruling barring the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC, an institution with a Constitutional mandate to conduct elections in Nigeria including gubernatorial elections) from holding gubernatorial elections in five of the 36 Nigerian states (Kogi, Sokoto, Cross River, Adamawa, and Bayelsa) in 2011. (Camillus Eboh, Nigeria Court Cancels Governorship Polls in 5 States, REUTERS (Apr. 16, 2011).)

The governors, in their case before the High Court, had argued that their seats should not be contested in the 2011 election season because they have not completed their full terms, due to the regular 2007 elections in their states being nullified and their waiting until 2008 to take the oaths of office (which marks the beginning of a governorship term) after winning re-run elections. (Hanibal Goitom, Nigeria: INEC Appeals Court Ruling Exempting Five States from Upcoming Gubernatorial Elections, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Apr. 7, 2011).) INEC, in turn, had argued that because the governors won the re-run elections, their tenure commenced on the day they took their first oath of office. (Id.) The High Court had sided with the governors and banned INEC from holding elections in these states, a ruling INEC appealed to the Court of Appeal in Abuja.

The Court of Appeals, in siding with the ruling of the High Court to ban INEC from holding gubernatorial elections in these states, noted that “[i]n law, there were no elections in the five states in April 2007 … Nobody can be validly elected in an invalid election.” (Eboh, supra.)