The past few months have been characterized with legal tussles over the March 18, 2023, governorship election across the country. While some governors were sacked from their seats, others have retained their positions as governors by judicial pronouncements.
Notable among the legal battles is the Kano state governorship tussle between Kabir Yusuf of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), who is currently occupying the seat as the Kano state governor, and Dr. Nasiru Gawuna of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Persecondnews recalls that last week, the appellate court sacked three governors that INEC had declared winners in the March poll. The governors include Zamfara state governor, Governor Dauda Lawal of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The court declared the poll inconclusive and ordered INEC to conduct a fresh election in three local government areas of the state. PDP’s Lawal and APC’s Bello Matawalle are the major contenders in the Zamfara governorship race.
On Sunday, the appellate court also sacked PDP’s Gov. Caleb Mutfwang of Plateau State, and ordered INEC to issue a Certificate of Return to APC’s Nentawe Goshwe. The court held that the party violated the court order that a valid congress be conducted in the 17 local government areas of the state.
The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on Friday also sacked Kano State Governor, Yusuf.
In a unanimous decision by a three-member panel of justices led by Justice M. U. Adumeh, the court held that Gov. Yusuf was not a valid candidate in the March 18 gubernatorial election which held in the state.
The panel said that evidence adduced by the parties established that Yusuf was not a member of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) at the time the election was held, adding that
under section 177(c) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, Engr. Yusuf was not qualified to contest the governorship election since he was not validly sponsored by the NNPP.
“A person must be a member of a political party before he can be sponsored for an election.
“Sponsorship without membership is like putting something on nothing,” Justice Adumeh held.
Persecondnews reports that prior to the appelate’s court judgment, Gov. Kabir was sacked by the State Governorship Elections Petitions Tribunal on September 20, 2023.
A three-man panel headed by Justice Oluyemi Akintan Osadebay, in a virtual ruling, held that some ballot papers that were relied upon to declare Yusuf as the winner of the gubernatorial contest, were neither signed nor stamped by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The panel, thereafter, sacked Yusuf from office on September 20, 2023, after declaring 165,663 of his votes invalid due to lack of signatures or stamps of INEC.
Engr. Yusuf of NNPP was declared the winner of the March 18, 2023, election by INEC with 1,019,602 million votes, surpassing the candidate APC’s Dr. Gawuna’s who had 890,705 votes.
APC and Gawuna not satisfied with the result, challenged Yusuf’s victory at the tribunal, alleging electoral malpractice.
However, Nigerians were thrown into confusion when a Certified True Copy (CTC) of the verdict emerged, contradicting what was read at the appellate court on last Friday.
The CTC contained several paragraphs, some of which had affirmed governor Yusuf’s victory. In the CTC released to lawyers, some contradictions also appeared to give verdict in favour of both the appellant and the first respondent, APC.
Many supporters of the appellant and some lawyers alleged that what the justices read in court was different from what was contained in the CTC, and insisted that the CTC, being a written document, was the original judgment.
Appeal court clears air on Kano Judgment
Reacting to the controversies surrounding the judgment delivered by the court on the Kano Governorship Election dispute, The Chief Registrar of the Court of Appeal, Mr. Umar Bangari, said “what happened in the judgment body was a ‘clerical error’ that did not in anyway invalidate or change the findings and conclusion of the court.
The chief registrar assured Nigerians that the error would be rectified once parties in the matter file formal application to that effect.
He cited Order 23 Rule 4 of the Court of Appeal HandBook which empowered the court to correct any clerical error once detected by the court or any of the parties in the matter.
He insisted that contrary to insinuations, the judgment of the court remained valid.
Lawyers express diverse opinions
Since the Certified True Copy (CTC) of the appellate court was released, there have been series of interpretations of the judgment which upheld the judgment of the tribunal that invalidated the election of NNPP’s Yusuf.
A lawyer with the Public Complaints Commission ( PCC), Mr Christain Adah, who spoke exclusively to Persecondnews, said the judge’s ruling is more valid than the CTC.
Adah cited that the typographical error in CTC has not affected the substance of the case.
“There can be typographical error in the CTC. When there’s an error in the CTC, different from what the judge read out, the judge can still retrieve the documents sent out, that that was not the true position of the law. That what he read out is this…but what the clerk type is different.
“And again, sometimes the clerks are in a haste to file the appeal in Supreme Court, because of the timing. Sometimes because they work is much at the court, they take it to a business center to type, and the error can come from there.
“If you have access to the real one, that is the one he wrote and read out, you’ll discover that that one is different from what is in the CTC. So the judge can still retrieve it to correct the typographical error.
“What the judge ruled is what is valid. The typographical error doesn’t affect the substance of case. So, you cannot appeal on that based on what the CTC said, it is what the Judge said you can appeal on. The judge will say what happened in the CTC was an error in typing and it has been corrected,” the lawyer said.
But another lawyer, Mr Tobi Soniyi, is of the opinion that the Court of Appeal was insensitive to the feelings of Nigerians.
“There were about four paragraphs in the CTC with the conflicting judgment. Out of the four, two favoured the incumbent governor while the other two favored the APC governorship candidate.
“They were both even. However I must say that it is very unfortunate at this time, it appears the Court of Appeal is insensitive to the feelings of Nigerians.
“They don’t seem to understand how bad people are feeling about some of the conflicting judgments coming from them, and to now make it worse is that they are not able to write a judgment that is error-free.
“It shouldn’t have been at this time when tension is already high,” he said in an interview on Arise television monitored by Persecondnews in Abuja.
Speaking on the return of the CTC for corrections, he explained that “under Order 22, Rule 4, the Court of Appeal has an inherent jurisdiction to correct errors. However, what the Chief Registrar has done is to ask party to make an application for it, saying the error be corrected.
“The errors are so fundamental that whichever way they correction goes, it’s likely to vary the judgment.”
On his part, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Femi Falana, has contradicted the widely held view or verdict that Kano Gov. Abba Yusuf has been removed from office.
Falana asserted that the Court of Appeal in Abuja actually upheld Yusuf’s election, overturning the lower tribunal’s ruling.
Speaking in an interview on Arise News Primetime Show, monitored by Persecondnews, Falana revealed that he has examined the Certified True Copy of the judgment and expressed dismay at the contradictions.
According to Falana, the majority judgment set aside the lower court’s decision, awarded costs in favour of Yusuf, and granted all the reliefs sought by the governor.
Falana further called for a return to the recommendations of the Justice Uwais Electoral Committee, and emphasized the need for a common standard to ensure elections reflect the will of the people.
‘’You will be surprised if I show you the judgment. To my utter dismay the majority judgement of the Court of Appeal in Kano upheld the Appeal, set aside the judgement of the lower court and awarded cost in favour of the governor that was removed by the lower Tribunal.
“There are contradictions which the court can no longer explain, but which is likely to be taken up by the Supreme Court.
‘’Contrary to the impression that has been given out there, the majority judgment of the Court of Appeal has confirmed that the judgement of the lower court was wrong, and has set it aside in writing, upheld the appeal and granted all the reliefs sought by Governor Abba. So, you ask yourself, what’s going on?’’
According to Falana, no serious democracy allows the court to determine the winner of elections, adding that Nigeria must put an end to it.
NNPP files appeal at Supreme Court
Meanwhile, the NNPP says it has filed its notice of appeal before the Supreme Court to challenge the November 17 judgelment of the Court of Appeal which upheld the decision of the Election Petitions Tribunal, sacking Gov. Abba Yusuf and declared Dr Nasiru Gawuna of the APC as the duly elected governor of Kano State.
In the notice of appeal dated Nov. 22 and filed by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Gboyega Awomolo, leading seven other senior advocates and 10 other lawyers, the NNPP listed 10 grounds for challenging the appeal.