By Ali Alkali and Mahmoud Muhammad:

Violent protest erupted yesterday in Sokoto State as a result of a widely spread rumour that the expected judgement of the Court of Appeal between Governor Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Alhaji Maigari Dingyadi of Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) fixed for tomorrow favours one of the parties.

The protest came as the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice A.I. Katsina-Alu, yesterday stopped further action on the appeals.

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had exclusively reported last Thursday the fear of the DPP that Justice Katsina-Alu is biased in the case.

A top official of the DPP had expressed concern at the open manner in which PDP supporters had declared that the CJN and the National Judicial Council (NJC) were on their side.

The DPP had also expressed fear that the CJN was about to use legal technicalities to dissolve the elections tribunal because things did not seem to be going the way of Wamakko.

Several vehicles were said to have been vandalised by the rioters who trooped to the streets with dangerous weapons with many people seriously injured.

The new state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Abubakar Muhammed confirmed the attacks by “some area boys” while speaking with journalists yesterday.

He, however, said that the police were on top of the situation, saying they had placed anti-riot policemen in strategic places in the state to avoid further destruction of properties by the rioters.

Four justices of the Court of Appeal were expected to deliver judgement on the case tomorrow. They include: Musa Dattijo Mohammed (Sokoto Division); Paul A. Galinje (Lagos Division); John Inyang Okoro (Kaduna Division); Mas’oud Oredola (Sokoto Division) and Regina O. Nwodo (Lagos Division).

But in a letter with reference number: NJC/CA/DM/IV/48 dated February 19, 2010, Justice Katsina-Alu requested the Court of Appeal to stay action on the case.

“I forward herewith two petitions both of which dated February 15, 2010 by Yahaya Mohmood, principal solicitor to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and one Alfred N. Agu, solicitor to Alhaji Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko, on the above subject matter,” Katsina-Alu stated.

“The petitions are self explanatory. Your comments on same should reach my chambers by 11.00am on Monday, February 22, 2010.

“Meanwhile, you are to ensure that further action on the appeals is put on hold pending the determination of the serious allegations leveled against you and the president of the Court of Appeal, please.”

The petition before the NJC might have cropped up by the judgment fixed for tomorrow on the matter while the motion for reference to the Supreme Court was still pending.

The petitions also complained of the arbitrariness and undue influence manifested by the apparent interest shown by the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami, who allegedly caused the conferences of the panel of judges to be held before him in Abuja instead of Sokoto where the court is sitting.

The Supreme Court had fixed March 15, 2010 for hearing an appeal filed by Governor Wamakko in connection with the ongoing litigation against his election by the candidate of the DPP, Dingyadi. Also the Supreme Court is expected to make a pronouncement on the interpretation of an earlier verdict of the Court of Appeal, Kaduna, which voided the April 14, 2007 election victory of Wamakko and ordered fresh election among all those who contested.

The DPP candidate had gone to the Court of Appeal, Sokoto in his bid to pursue his contention that the Court of Appeal, holden in Kaduna verdict implied that Wamakko could not contest again in the fresh election it ordered. The candidate had earlier failed to obtain such a declaration first from the Federal High Court, Abuja and later from the second election appeal tribunal in Sokoto both of which maintained lack of jurisdiction to interpret the verdict of the Court of Appeal, Kaduna .

Wamakko in his objection to the appeal before the Court of Appeal, Sokoto had argued that the court lacked jurisdiction to interpret, review or set aside a final judgment delivered by a sister division of the same court and invoked his right under Section 395(3) of the Constitution that makes it mandatory for the Court of Appeal to make a reference to the Supreme Court for interpretation of such a substantial question of law before taking any decision on the matter.

Meanwhile, both the DPP and the PDP in Sokoto have asked security agencies in the state to wade into the crisis in order to protect the lives and property of indigenes.

In a statement signed by its Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Attahiru Mohammed, the state chapter of DPP stated: “We want to assure the world that we mean nothing but peace. We will continue to be peaceful at all times no matter the pressure on us.

“But this does not mean that the security agencies should just fold their arms and allow the worst to happen. Timely and quick intervention of all the security agencies concerned will not only douse the tension already on ground but save the situation once and for all.

“We are in full control of our teeming supporters for now, but if things did not take proper shape and the security agencies refuse to take full control of the situation, we are afraid it will be a herculean task to control the anger of our people.

On its own part, the PDP alleged that DPP had planned to depose the Sultan of Sokoto as soon as they clinch power.

“Now that the Peoples Democratic Party in Sokoto has uncovered these plans, we urge security agencies to be on their guard to protect lives and property of everybody in the state,” a statement signed by the party’s state Secretary, Aminu Bello Sokoto, stated.

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