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Supreme Court ruling on 2023 guber polls: Seven state governors will know their fate Jan. 12

Another batch of the governors entangled in legal battles over the disputed polls will know their final fate on Friday, January 12, as the Supreme Court is set to deliver judgments on seven governorship appeals.

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The last six months of 2023 were characterized by legal tussles over the March 18, 2023, governorship elections in some states. While some governors where sacked from their seats, others were lucky to have retained their positions, courtesy of some court verdicts.

Another batch of the governors entangled in legal battles over the disputed polls will know their final fate on Friday, January 12, as the Supreme Court is set to deliver judgments on seven governorship appeals.

The states are Lagos, Kano, Zamfara, Plateau, Ebonyi, Bauchi and Cross River.

Lagos State

The candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, was declared winner of the March 18 gubernatorial election, by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

According to the results announced by the INEC, Sanwo-Olu polled a total of 762,134 votes to defeat his close challenger, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour of the Labour Party (LP), who scored 312,329 votes, and Abdulazeez Adediran popularly known as Jandor, governorship candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), who came a distant third with 62,449 votes.

Not satisfied, the LP and PDP candidates approached the Lagos State Election Petitions Tribunal to nullify Sanwo-Olu’s victory.

In its ruling on September 25, the tribunal dismissed Adediran and Rhodes-Vivour’s suits seeking to nullify the election of Sanwo-Olu at the poll.

In a unanimous judgment, the three-person Tribunal presided over by Justice Arum Ashom, threw out the petition for lacking in merit, as it also held that all the issues raised by the petitioners are pre-election matters of which the Tribunal lacks jurisdiction to entertain.

Also displeased with the tribunal verdict, the duo approached the appellate court, which also dismissed their suits.

A three-member panel of the Appellate Court led by Justice Yargata Nimpar, upheld the decision of the election petition tribunal, and held that the two appeals were lacking in merit.

Both contestants subsequently approached the Supreme court which is expected to put a final end to the governorship tussle by its judgment on Friday.

Kano

Notable among the legal battles is the Kano state governorship tussle between Engr. 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). The case has had several twist and turns.

Persecondnews reported that Engr. Yusuf of NNPP was declared the winner of the March 18, 2023, election by the Independent National Electronic Electoral Commission (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.

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).

As a result, the governor’s votes were reduced to 853,939, while Ganuwa’s 890,705 votes remained.

The panel thereafter sacked Yusuf from office on September 20, 2023, after declaring 165,663 of his votes invalid due to the lack of signatures or stamps of the INEC.

Yusuf immediately rejected the tribunal’s decision, calling it “unfair” and “a miscarriage of justice,” and appealed the ruling.

On its part, the Court of Appeal in a unanimous decision by a three-member panel of justices, led by Justice M. U. Adumeh, on November 13, held that Governor Yusuf was not a valid candidate in the March 18 gubernatorial election which held in the state.

The panel said that evidence that was adduced by the parties established that Governor Yusuf was not a member of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) at the time the election was held, pointing out that under Section 177(c) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, Yusuf was not qualified to contest the governorship election since he was not validly sponsored by the NNPP.

He was also sacked as governor by the appellate court.

However, Nigerians were thrown into confusion when a Certified True Copy (CTC) of the verdict emerged, contradicting what was read at the appellate court.

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 judgement.

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 insisted that contrary to insinuations, the judgment of the court remained valid.

The governor thereafter proceeded to the Supreme Court to seek redress.

Plateau

Another court ruling that shocked Nigerians was that of Plateau State.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved judgment on an appeal filed by Gov. Caleb Mutfwang of Plateau State seeking the affirmation of his election, which was nullified by the Court of Appeal in November 2023.

Mr. Mutfwang of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) scored 525,299 votes to defeat the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Nentawe Yilwatda, who got 481,370 votes during the March 18 governorship poll in Plateau State.

The governor’s election was upheld by the Plateau State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal in Jos, the state capital.

However, the Court of Appeal in Abuja, in its judgement delivered on November 19, 2023, overturned Mr. Mutfwang’s victory, and ordered the INEC to issue a Certificate of Return to Mr. Goshwe.

This prompted Mutfwang to proceed to the Supreme Court to seek redress.

Zamfara

The Court of Appeal on Thursday in Abuja nullified the March 18 governorship election won by Mr. Dauda Lawal of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

It ordered a rerun of the election in three local government areas.

Mr. Lawal in a victory that dislodged the then incumbent, Mr. Bello Matawalle of the All Progressives Congress (APC), polled a total of 377,726 votes, while Matawalle scored 311,976 votes.

INEC declared Lawal winner of the election, which prompted Matawalle to challenge the result at election tribunal court.

In a ruling on September 18, the Zamfara Election Petitions Tribunal held that the petition by Mr. Matawalle, was devoid of merit, and upheld Lawal’s election.

While upholding Mr. Lawal’s victory, the tribunal awarded the N500,000 fine against the petitioners.

Unsatisfied, Mr. Matawalle, who is now the Minister of State for Defence, proceeded to the Appeal Court to challenge the decision of the tribunal.

However, respite came for Mr. Matawalle when the three-member panel of justices led by Justice Oyebisi Folayemi, nullified the election of Gov. Lawal and ordered a rerun of the election in three local government areas — Maradun, Birnin Magaji and Bukuyun.

The governor proceeded to the apex court for its ruling.

Bauchi

The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Bauchi State on September 20, 2023, struck out the petition of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate, Air Marshall Sadique Abubakar (Rtd), challenging Mr. Bala Mohammed’s election.

The three-man panel headed by Justice P.T. Kwahar.held that Abubakar’s petition lacked merit and affirmed Senator Bala Mohammed as the duly elected governor of the state.

Persecondnews recalls that the INEC had declared Sen. Mohammed winner of the March 18 election with 525,280 votes while his closest rival, while Abubakar, a former Chief of Air Staff, polled 432,272 votes.

Rejecting the tribunal judgment upholding Mohammed’s victory, Abubakar and the APC filed an appeal.

In November, the appellate court affirmed the victory of Governor Mohammed in the March 18 governorship election.

In the lead judgment read by Justice Chidiebere Nwaoma Uwa, the appellate court held that the appeal of Abubakar, lacked merit and that the APC failed to prove the allegations of malpractices and non-compliance with the Electoral Act, 2022 against Gov. Mohammed and the PDP.

Abubakar is also expected to know his faith in the final ruling by the Supreme Court on Friday.

Ebonyi

The Appeal Court sitting in Lagos.had in November 2023 upheld the election of Mr. Francis Ogbonna Nwifuru of the APC as the duly elected governor of Ebonyi State in the March 18 governorship election.

The three-member panel of Justices led by Justice Jummai Hannatu Sankey, in a unanimous judgment dismissed the appeal filed by Mr. Chukwuma Ifeanyi Odii of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for lacking in merit.

Justice Sankey, who read the lead judgement, held that the PDP and its candidate lacked the legal right to meddle into the internal affairs of the APC as it relates to the nomination of candidates for election.

Nwifuru had polled 199,131 votes to defeat Mr. Odii of the PDP, who secured 80,191 votes.

The panel resolved all the five issues raised by the PDP candidate in Nwifuru’s favour.

Cross River

In September 26, 2023, the Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal in Cross River State struck out the petition of the PDP and its candidate, Mr. Sandy Onor, against the election of Mr. Bassey Otu of the APC.

According to the judgment delivered by the panel, the petition was dismissed for lack of merit.

The PDP candidate challenged the declaration of Mr. Otu by the INEC, as the winner of the March 18 poll in the South-South state.

Otu was declared winner of the polls by the INEC, having polled a total of 258,619 votes to defeat Mr. Onor who garnered 179,636 votes.

The tribunal verdict was re-affirmed by the Appeal Court.

The Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, on November 22, reaffirmed Otu as the winner of the governorship poll in the state.

The appellate court like the tribunal, also dismissed the appeal filed by the governorship candidate of the PDP for lacking merit.

Onor also proceeded to the Supreme Court for a redress.

Persecondnews reports that as the nation waits with bated breath the judgments of the apex court, it may, however, spring some surprises.

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