Mere Errors Blight Appeal Court Judgment in Kano, Create Crisis of Judicial Confidence

•Tension rises as controversial CTC circulates in Kano metropolis  

•NNPP protests, urges NJC to review ruling, says document doctored to favour opposition 

•Court will clarify errors, declares APC

Adedayo Akinwale, Alex Enumah, Juliet Akoje in Abuja and Ahmad Sorondinki in Kano

The crisis of confidence rocking the Nigerian judiciary has exacerbated further following inconsistencies discovered in the Certified True Copy (CTC) of the court’s majority judgement in the Kano State governorship election, which the Chief Registrar of the Court of Appeal, Mr Mohammed Umar Bangari, has described as mere clerical errors.

But the circulation of the controversial CTC of the Court of Appeal judgement, affirming the election of Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf as the substantive winner of the March 18 governorship election in the state, contrary to the earlier judgement sacking him, heightened political tensions in in the ancient city of Kano.

News of the contentious document sparked tension in the city, with the security forces moving in quickly to disperse youths, who wanted to stage a protest against the appeal court judgement.

New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Yusuf’s party, which also contested the rulings of the Kano Election Petition Tribunal and the Court of Appeal, urged the National Judicial Council (NJC) to review the verdicts. It alleged that the appeal court judgement was doctored in favour of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

However, APC said it expected the Appeal Court to provide explanations on the errors contained in the CTC of the Kano State governorship election judgement.

The three-member panel of the appellate court had in their majority judgement delivered last Friday, dismissed the governor’s appeal against the ruling of the Kano State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal for lacking merit.

But in the CTC released to lawyers, some contradictions appeared, which seemed to give verdict in favour of both the appellant and the first respondent, APC.

Many supporters of the appellant and some lawyers alleged that the judgement was in favour of Yusuf before it was manipulated to favour the APC candidate. They 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.

However, speaking with some journalists in Abuja, Chief Registrar of the Court of Appeal dismissed the contradictions as nothing serious. He stated that even the lawyers and politicians knew the truth, but were merely playing to the gallery.

Bangari stressed that what happened in the judgement was a clerical error, which happened from time to time. He said the courts had a way of addressing such errors through the instrumentality of the law.

The chief registrar argued that the contradictions did not in any way invalidate the findings and conclusion of the court.

“What happened in the judgement is just a mere clerical error and the attention of the court has been drawn to it and appropriate steps within the ambit of the law will be taken,” Bangari said.

He assured that the error would be rectified once parties in the matter filed formal application to that effect.

Bangari drew the attention of the newsmen to Order 23 Rule 4 of the Court of Appeal Book, which empowered the court to correct any clerical error once detected by the court or any of the parties in the matter.

In the CTC dated November 21, 2023 and signed by one of the court’s registrars, Ibrahim Umar, the majority judgement delivered by Justice Moore Abraham Adumein read, in part, on page 67, “I will conclude by stating that the live issues in this appeal are hereby resolved in favour of the 1st respondent and against the appellant.

“In the circumstances, I resolve all the issues in favour of the appellant and against the 1st respondent. Thereby I find no merit in this appeal, which is liable to be and is hereby dismissed.

“The judgement of the tribunal in Petition No: EPT/KN/GOV/01/2023 between All Progressives Congress (APC) versus Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and 2 others delivered on September 20, 2023 is hereby set aside.

“The sum of N1 million is hereby awarded as cost in favour of the appellant and against 1st respondent.”

Kano residents, especially supporters of NNPP, had celebrated the emergence of the CTC.

Kano State Police Command deployed its personnel to strategic locations to forestall any attempt to cause disturbance or breakdown of law and order across the state.

Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Usaini Gumel, banned all politically motivated clusters of people at all locations under whatever guise, and urged party supporters against any mass action or protest.

Attorney General of the state and Commissioner for Justice, Haruna Dederi, who announced the latest discovery on the document, said it would strengthen NNPP’s position at the Supreme Court.

Dederi said going by the fresh revelation, as indicated in the certified judgement, the Court of Appeal set aside the judgement of the Kano election petition tribunal for lacking merit.

He said the evidence contained on page 67 of the CTC released on Tuesday and signed by Registrar, Jameel Ibrahim Umar, showed that the appellate court upheld the victory of NNPP’s Yusuf as duly elected governor of Kano State.

Dederi noted that page 67 of the certified copy of the judgement indicated that the tribunal ruling that sacked Yusuf was set aside. He stated that contrary to what the judges read to the public on November 17, the written evidence vindicated Yusuf as the legitimate governor of Kano State.

NNPP Protests, Tells NJC to Review Court Rulings

NNPP, yesterday, protested the rulings of the Kano Election Petition Tribunal and the Court of Appeal that sacked Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf. It urged NJC to review the verdicts.

Acting National Chairman of NNPP, Abba Kawu Ali, who addressed a press briefing yesterday in Abuja, insisted that Yusuf was a member of the party before the primary election that nominated him.

He alleged that the CTC of the appeal court judgement delivered by Justice Moore Aseimo Abraham Adumein (JCA) and concurred to by Justices Bitrus Gyarazama JCA and Lateef Adebayo Ganiyu (JCA) was doctored against Yusuf.

Dipo Olayoku, who represented the NNPP national secretary at the briefing, stated, “Ladies and gentlemen of the press, to our greatest surprise, the CTC showed that the judgement delivered by Honourable Justice Moore Aseimo Abraham Adumein (JCA) and concurred to by Honourable Justice Bitrus Gyarazama JCA, and Honourable Justice Lateef Adebayo Ganiyu (JCA) is actually in favour of our candidate, the governor of Kano State, Engr. Abba Kabir Yusuf.

“At page 67 of the extant judgement in its conclusive findings held inter alia: ‘In the circumstances, I resolve all the issues in favour of the Appellant (Engr. Yusuf Abba Kabir)’ the judgement of the tribunal in petition No: EPT/KN/GOV/01/2023 between the All Progressives Congress (APC) Vs INEC & 2 others delivered on the 20th day of September 2023 is hereby set aside.

“The sum of N1, 000,000.00 (one million naira) only is hereby awarded as costs in favour of the appellant (Engr. Abba Kabir Yusuf) and against the 1st respondent (APC).

“Ladies and gentlemen of the press, this is the complex situation we, as a political party and our candidate, have found ourselves.

“If at the point of delivering the judgement, there was a pronouncement that our appeal failed but the CTC of the same judgement in its conclusive findings actually resolved all the issues in our favour, and even awarded costs in our favour against the APC, this definitely is a riddle! We are an interested party.

“We own the platform on which Engr. Abba Kabir Yusuf ran for the election and was declared the winner. We are calling on the National Judicial Council (NJC) to, without delay, commence investigation to unravel what happened in the matter.

“Also, we are calling on eminent members of the bench (both retired and serving) and the bar, to be interested in what happened that we have the kind of scenario presented in the CTC of the judgement of the appeal court.

“In addition, we call on leaders, elders and other major stakeholders in the Nigerian project, including the media, to step into this matter to avert the danger this type of signal from the judiciary portends for our democracy, in particular, and our country, in general.”

APC: Appeal Court Will Clarify Errors Contained in CTC

APC said it expected the Court of Appeal to provide explanation on the errors contained in the Certified True Copy (CTC) of the Kano State governorship election judgement.

Addressing a press conference yesterday in Abuja, National Legal Adviser of APC, Professor Abdulkareem Kana, said the ruling party had not received the Certified True Copy of the judgement. He added that the APC would write and get a copy, saying if the copy that would be conveyed to them still contains the errors, it would take steps to ensure correction is made.

Kana noted, “We woke up this morning and we were confronted with media reports from different news outlets, mostly print media and a few social media posts, where the controversy was identified in the released Certified True Copy of the judgement of the Court of Appeal that was delivered on the 17th of November 223 here in Abuja.

“However, those of us who are lawyers, we know that typographic errors often occur in Certified True Copy (CTC) of court judgement. Ordinarily, there wouldn’t have been a confusion if it was probably not a political matter, because it will not be the first time such typographic mistakes will be seen in judgement and being lawyers we have been used to a situation like this. All that is done is to merely correct that mistake. The most important thing is a judgement that was read in open court.”

Kana emphasised that the merits and other facts of judgement of the tribunal, which was delivered on September 28, indicated that the appeal was upheld.

According to him, “If you read through the entirety of the judgement from lead justice, my Lord analysed the submissions of different cited cases and the case and arrived at appropriate findings. It gives you an idea of what should be the conclusion. But that’s not all. If you read the concurring judgements by two justices, because there are three judges, who sat over the appeal, the two justices had explained and clarified their positions.”

Kana explained that in a situation like this, lawyers engaged in what was called community reading of the entire judgement to see what exactly the finding of the court was.

He stated, “So, I don’t think the explanation needs to come from us. But for us, we can only render our own perspective as a party to the entire uproar that is going on.

“But as to the explanation as to where the error happened in the cause of typing the judgement, it is for the court to provide an explanation and I’m sure the court would have done that by now by taking necessary measures to issue a fresh CTC with respect to an appropriate judgement of the court.”

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