The battle over Wajir Governor Mohamed Abdullahi’s academic qualification presented an opportunity for a new match between senior lawyers on the 2017 election petition yesterday.
After the presidential election petition last year, senior lawyers Ahmednassir Abdullahi, James Orengo and Fred Ngatia went into a lull.
Yesterday, the lawyers appeared before Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice David Maraga and Justices Mohamed Ibrahim, Jackton Ojwang, Smokin Wanjala, Njoki Nd’ung’u and Isaac Lenaola but the goal posts had changed.
Lawyer Ahmednassir had shifted from Lawyer Ngatia’s camp to join senator Orengo in a bid to battle for Orange Democratic Movement’s Ahmed Abdullahi, while Ngatia, alongside Prof Tom Ojienda and Tom Macharia to defend the incumbent who elected through Jubilee Party’s ticket Mohamed Abdi.
Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) retained its presidential election lawyers Kamau Karori, Ken Melly and Mahat Somane.
In the case, lawyer Ngatia argued that lack or having a degree cannot be a reason to impeach the Governor.
He also argued that Mr. Abdullahi never raised an alarm about the current Governor’s academic documents before he lost.
“A degree does not validate an election. This issue of degree was known to the former Governor four years before the 2017 battle. He did nothing about it, and he waited until he was defeated,” argued Ngatia.
He also argued that there was no requirement for a Governor to have a university degree.
According to Ngatia, Parliament lifted the provision for the degree for both Members of County Assemblies and Governors.
The senior lawyer argued that Court of Appeal erred by holding High Court had powers to deal with the degree question.
IEBC also faulted the Court of Appeal for upholding High Court’s decision that the Wajir election was null and void arguing that academic qualifications contest was closed at the nominations level.
Lawyer Kamau Karori, for IEBC argued Abdullahi’s case was a gamble as he did not raise a concern with the commission during the nominations.
“It is necessary that this court to rule that issues relating to pre-election issues should be dealt by the IEBC,” lawyer Kamau argued.
While replying, Lawyer Ahmednassir argued that the case before the court was that it had no powers to determine whether the Governor had a degree or not.
He argued that, instead, it was the High Court which had the authority to scrutinize whether Governor Abdi had qualified or not.
“These degrees and transcripts are not degrees obtained through going through a university,” argued Ahmednasir.
The lawyer also argued that the case was a time bomb for the Supreme Court if Mr. Abdi’s case is allowed as it would amount to re-opening issues that had been argued and determined by lower courts.
Lawyer Ahmednassir also argued the incumbent never travelled to Uganda to study.
“You have no jurisdiction in this case. There is no answer to this letter that he has not stepped to Uganda,” he argued.
Senior lawyer Orengo, also for former Governor argued that the facts before the court was that Mr. Abdi did not have a degree.
“Facts are stubborn. A letter of admission is not proof that you attended a university and have a degree,” he argued.
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