- Apex court races against time in Benue, Plateau, Bauchi appeals
Alex Enumah in Abuja, Ibrahim Shuaibu in Kano, Onuminya Innocent in Sokoto and Daji Sani in Yola
Police in Kano and Sokoto States have been placed on red alert ahead of today’s judgment by the Supreme Court in the appeals against the election of Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State and his Sokoto State counterpart, Aminu Tambuwal.
THISDAY investigations showed that the police high command in the two states had evolved plans to prevent any breakdown of law and order arising from possible protests by aggrieved parties not favoured by the judgments.
In the election disputes, Alhaji Ahmed Aliyu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is challenging the victory of Tambuwal of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in March 9, 2019 governorship election in Sokoto State, which was concluded with a re-run on March 23.
The election of Ganduje of the APC in Kano State is being challenged by Alhaji Abba Kabiru Yusuf of the PDP
The apex court had last Tuesday fixed judgment in the two appeals after listening to the submissions of counsel to all parties in their respective appeals.
The judgments will be delivered barely 24 hours to the legal deadline stipulated for the conclusion of the two governorship election disputes, which expires on January 21.
According to constitutional provisions, electoral cases are to be heard within 180 days at the tribunal and 60 days each by both the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.
The 60 days started counting from November 22, 2019, when the Court of Appeal gave its judgment in the two appeals and will elapse on January 21.
Any judgment entered for or against a party a day after the suit expired is said to become statute barred, null and void and a mere academic exercise.
Today’s judgments have triggered concerns in not just in Kano and Sokoto States, but the entire country, particularly with the shocking decision of the Supreme Court last week, which sacked PDP and Imo State Governor, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha.
The Supreme Court in the unanimous judgment had set aside the concurrent decisions of the Imo State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal and the Court of Appeal, when it held that candidate of the APC, Senator Hope Uzodinma, and not Ihedioha, won majority of the votes cast in the March 9 governorship election in Imo State.
Following this decision, there is heightened tension in Kano State that the election of Ganduje may be upturned as the appellants are challenging the powers of the state returning officer to cancel elections in some wards and conduct a bye-election thereafter.
In the case of Sokoto State, but for time constraints, the apex court would have delivered its verdict last week alongside that of Imo State.
Justice Ibrahim Muhammad who presided over the seven-member panel of the apex court justices had stood down the appeal filed by the APC candidate for judgment after counsel representing parties in the suit adopted and argued their brief of arguments in the appeal and fixed judgment for today.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear and probably take decision this week in three other governorship appeals.
The appeals, which include that of former Bauchi State Governor, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar, against current Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed; Mr. Emmanuel Jime against Benue Governor, Mr. Samuel Ortom, and Senator Jeremiah Useni challenging the return of Hon. Simon Lalong, were last week scheduled for hearing alongside the three heard by the Supreme Court.
However, following the congestion of cases at the court last week, Justice Muhammad announced that the court will only take cases whose lifespan expires earliest and adjourned that of Bauchi, Benue and Plateau to this week.
While the case involving Benue State is expected to become statute barred on January 27, that of Bauchi and Plateau States would lapse by January 28, if judgment is not entered by then.
Police Battle Ready amid Concerns about Security Threats in Kano, Sokoto
Investigations by THISDAY at the weekend revealed concerns and tensions in the two states ahead of the Supreme Court judgments.
The sacking of Ihedioha by the apex court last Tuesday has created apprehension in Kano and Sokoto states.
Also, the allegation by the National Chairman of PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, that the presidency was pressurising the Supreme Court to rule in favour of the APC in its appeals challenging Sokoto, Bauchi, Adamawa and Benue governorship elections has also heightened anxiety in the two states.
All four states were won by the opposition party in the March 9 gubernatorial election.
At the Juma’at prayer on Friday, the supporters of both parties in Sokoto State were seen praying for the success of their parties.
Also some clerics across the state led by Sheik Tukur Rijiyar Zaure converged on the Central Eid Ground on Friday to pray for Tambuwal’s victory at the apex court.
However, both the APC and the PDP in the state are optimistic of victory at the apex court.
The Publicity Secretary of APC in the state, Hon. Sambo Danchadi, told THISDAY that the chances of the party were bright, stressing that the party will reclaim its “stolen mandate.”
Danchadi alleged the APC won the governorship election in the state but was rigged out by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The Chairman of the PDP in the state, Alhaji Ibrahim Milgoma, dismissed Danchadi’s claim, saying that Tambuwal won the election.
Milgoma added that he was surprised to hear APC telling their supporters that they would reclaim their stolen mandate today.
“If I should ask: Is it not when you have mandate before you talk it was stolen? The good people of Sokoto State gave their mandate freely to Aminu Tambuwal,” he stated.
He urged PDP supporters to remain calm as they await the outcome of the judgment.
On police preparations to contain possible breach of the peace, the Police Public Relations Officer, Sokoto State Command, Mr. Muhammad Abubakar Sadiq, a Deputy Superintendent of Police(DSP), told THISDAY that 1,000 officers and men had been deployed to man strategic points in the state.
He enjoined the people to go about their lawful businesses as the police will doing everything in safeguarding them.
Sadiq said the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Kaoje, had directed that no officer should stand down ahead of today’s judgment.
“Kaoje enjoined all parties involved in the Supreme Court judgment in Abuja to remain calm during and after the judgment. He added that the command has deployed 1,000 of their personnel in strategic points in the state,” he stated.
He urged the winner to be magnanimous in victory and warned any party that loses to be peaceful and not do anything to jeopardise peace.
THISDAY gathered that the areas witnessing heavy police presence include the Round About close to Government House, Bafarawa flyover close to Sokoto State Polytechnics; Old Airport , Dindima Bus Stop along Usman Dan Fodio University Road; Round About, close to Sultan Palace; Emir Yahaya area and Ahmadu Bello Way
In Kano State, both camps of the APC and the PDP are also apprehensive over today’s verdict.
However, Ganduje and Yusuf have expressed optimism of winning.
The state chairman of APC, Alhaji Abdullahi Sanusi, told THISDAY that the judgment would affirm the party’s victory in the election.
“You can see that from the tribunal to the appeal court, the journey of our victory has been so smooth and this goes to tell you that the Supreme Court will only confirm this victorious path of ours,” Abbas stated.
He added that Ganduje’s election for a second term, which was after a rerun, was nothing but a product of a lawful exercise.
Sanusi’s counterpart in the PDP, Mr. Rabiu Bichi, enjoined members of the party to remain steadfast and not be distracted by the activities of the APC.
“We have been very optimistic that PDP won the election and we will be given justice. We have always been very optimistic; we told the media before now that the tribunal denied us justice deliberately; the Court of Appeal did same. We knew very well that they neglected very vital aspects of the case, but we thank God, the Supreme Court is there to review the whole matter,” he said.
Also, the PDP candidate, Yusuf, in a statement by his spokesman, Mr. Sanusi Tofa, said: “We believe in all honesty that the Supreme Court will do justice to our petition; so, we don’t want to pre-empt the outcome of the panel of judges.
“No amount of propaganda can change our fate. Power belongs to Allah and He gives it to who He wishes at the very time He so wishes.”
The Kano State Police Command said it was on the alert to ensure security of lives and property.
Spokesman of the police in the state, Mr. Abdullahi Haruna, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), told THISDAY that the police had put measures in place to prevent a possible breakdown of law and order in the aftermath of the Supreme Court judgment.
According to him, particular attention was being focused on the Kano metropolis and its environs, as well as some strategic locations within their vicinities.
“We are on a 24-hour red alert and we are on standby, round the clock, 24/7. We will not waiver in our sustained routine and surprise tactics to keep the peace.”
THISDAY observed that plain-clothes security operatives had taken over some flashpoints in the state such as Mandawarai, Emir Palace Junction, some areas in Dala Local Government, Brigade and Sabon Gari.
Meanwhile, the state government has dismissed as deceptive and unjustified, what it described as an attempt by the PDP to insinuate that the case of the Imo State governorship dispute is similar to that of Kano State.
The state Commissioner for Information, Malam Muhammad Garba, told THISDAY that there was no correlation between the facts and circumstances of Ihedioha’s case and Ganduje’s case.
“In the former (Ihedioha case), whilst there was glaring evidence of the cancellation of results by officials other than the presiding officers, in the latter case (Governor Ganduje), there was no evidence of such cancellation by officials other than the presiding officers.
“There was proven evidence in Governor Ganduje’s case, that the cancellation of the 207 polling units were carried out according to the provisions of the Electoral Act, which gives mandate to unit presiding officers as was clearly depicted in the numerous Form ECG 40s tendered and admitted in evidence without any objections by the petitioners,” he said.