Your Judgments on Kano, Plateau, Zamfara Perverse, Supreme Court Blasts A’Court’s Election Panels

*Reverses sacks 

*Says many suffered from wrongful judgments 

*Affirms election of five others 

*Ozekhome calls for review of laws stopping legislators’ petitions at appellate court

*Governors, APC, Atiku, others hail judgements Jubilation in Kano, Jos, Zamfara, others

Chuks Okocha, Alex Enumah, Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja Emmanuel Ugwu-Nwogo in Umuahia, Ahmad Sorondinki in Kano,Seriki Adinoyi in Jos, Okon Bassey in Uyo, Benjamin Nworie in Abakaliki

The Supreme Court yesterday berated some justices of the Court of Appeal over the quality of their judgments in the governorship election petitions brought before them.
Delivering judgment in governorship appeals involving eight states of the federation, the apex court described as perverse the judgments of the appellate court that nullified the elections of governors of Kano, Plateau and Zamfara States.
In three separate judgments the appellate court justices had voided the election of Governors Abba Yusuf, Caleb Mutfwang and Dauda Lawal on grounds of alleged unlawful nomination and sponsorship and deduction of alleged illegal votes.
Justices of the apex court including John Okoro, Emmanuel Agim and Helen Ogunwumiju regretted that despite several decisions of the Supreme Court that tribunals and courts lacked the jurisdiction to dabble into the internal matters of political parties, some justices could still go ahead and sack a winner of an election on grounds of political parties’ primaries, nomination or sponsorship.

Kano State

Delivering judgment in the appeal by Yusuf, a five-member panel of the apex court led by Justice John Okoro, in reversing the sack of the New Nigerian People’s Party’s (NNPP) governor, held that the Court of Appeal was wrong in affirming the judgment of the tribunal which held that Yusuf did not win majority of lawful votes cast at the March election in Kano State.
 The apex court in determining the case raised two issues: whether the lower court was right in deducting the 165,000 votes and whether the lower court was right in entertaining the issue of membership of political parties.
According to Justice Okoro, the tribunal was wrong in deducting votes accrued to Yusuf at the election on grounds that the ballot papers were not signed and stamped by officials of INEC.
 In addition, the court held that Section 71 of the Electoral Act relied upon by the lower court to deduct the alleged disputed votes does not apply in the instant case.

“The provision does not refer to any regulation or action at the polling units,” he said, adding that the provision was to the exclusion of ballot papers.
Having so held the apex court went ahead to restore the deducted 165,616 votes to reinstate the victory of Yusuf at the governorship election.
“The decision of the trial court cannot stand, all the ballot papers are hereby restored”, adding that the evidence did not show that the appellant interfered with the ballot papers not signed.
On the second issue, the apex court also faulted the Court of Appeal for holding that Yusuf was not a member of the NNPP as at the time he contested the election, adding that the issue of nomination and sponsorship were pre-election matter and outside the jurisdiction of the court.
Besides, Okoro observed that contrary to the appellate court, the tribunal never held that Yusuf was not qualified to contest the poll but that his name was not in the NNPP’s membership register submitted to INEC.
The apex court subsequently set aside the judgment of the two lower courts for being perverse and restored the electoral victory of Abba Yusuf.
INEC had declared Abba Yusuf of the NNPP winner of the March 18, 2023 governorship election in Kano State, having won majority of the lawful votes cast at the election.

But, the Kano State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in a judgment in September last year, voided Yusuf election after it deducted over 160,000 votes accrued to the NNPP on the grounds that the ballot papers used for the poll were not signed and stamped by officials of the electoral umpire.
The deduction then gave Nasiru Gawuna of the All Progressives Congress (APC) the lead and was subsequently declared the duly elected governor of Kano State.
Besides affirming the judgment of the tribunal, the appellate court went ahead to void Yusuf’s participation in the March 18 governorship election, which INEC declared winner on grounds of unlawful and illegal nomination and sponsorship.
Yusuf and the NNPP in their appeal had urged the apex court to set aside the two lower courts decisions because the tribunal erred in law when it deducted his over 160,000 votes on account of not been signed and stamped by INEC officials.
Besides, the appellants further faulted the judgment of the appellate court, arguing that the issue of nomination and sponsorship was a pre-election matter, which the appellate court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain.
 They therefore urged the Supreme Court to nullify and set aside the concurrent judgments of the two lower courts and affirm his election as duly elected governor of Kano State.

Plateau State

Similarly, the apex court also set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal, which voided the election of Governor Mutfwang of Plateau state.
 A five-member panel of the court reversed the decision of the appellate court for being perverse on the grounds that the issue of primary election that produced Mutfwang was outside the jurisdiction of the lower court.
Besides the apex court pointed out that the validity of nomination and sponsorship were not valid ground to void an election.
 “The court of appeal lacked jurisdiction to entertain it”, Agim said, stating that besides, the issue of sponsorship had elapsed long ago, as the law stipulates that a person challenging the nomination or sponsorship of a candidate for an election must institute the legal action within 14 days from which such illegality was said to have been made.

The apex court in addition explained that the petitioners not being members of the PDP have no locus to challenge the primary election of the PDP. “Since they are not members of the PDP, the tribunal and Court of Appeal have no right at all to look into the issue.”
On the issue of whether the order of the Plateau State High Court could affect the National Executive Committee (NEC), the apex court held that the appellate court was wrong in holding that the order affects the NEC.
Besides, Justice Agim stressed that the issue of primary was an internal matters of political parties which both the tribunal and Court of Appeal lacked jurisdiction.
Agim, also pointed out that contrary to the claim of the petitioners and the judgment of the appellate court the order of the Plateau High Court was not disobeyed by the PDP as evidence showed that a fresh primary was conducted.
 Agim, warned the legal profession especially “the bar and bench to wake up,” or else would soon render itself irrelevant.
 “The judgment of the Court of Appeal is set aside, the election of the appellant is restored and the judgment of the tribunal affirming the election of the appellant is hereby affirmed,” he added.
Meanwhile, Presiding Justice, Okoro also reacting, lamented that, “a lot of people have suffered” because of the wrongful judgments of the appellate court which had sacked several legislators who won elections under the platform of the PDP.

Justice Helen Ogunwumiju also berated the appellate court for going into the issue of nomination and sponsorship despite several decisions of the apex court to the effect that a political party cannot challenge the primary election of another.
INEC had on March 20, 2023, declared Caleb Mutfwang of the PDP as the winner of the Plateau governorship election after he scored 525,299 votes, against the 481,370 votes of the APC and its candidate, Nentawe Goshwe.
In its judgment in last September the three-member panel of the Plateau tribunal had affirmed Mutfwang’s election and dismissed Goshwe’s petition for being incompetent and lacking in merit.
Not satisfied the petitioners proceeded to the appellate court where the three panel voided the judgment of the tribunal and ordered the sack of Mutfwang as governor on grounds of illegal nomination.
 The appellate court had agreed with the appellants that the primary election that produced Mutfwang as candidate of the PDP was illegal, unlawful and constituted in violation of a court order.
 The appellate court subsequently ordered INEC to issue a fresh Certificate of Return to Goshwe after withdrawing the earlier one issued to Mutfwang.
Dissatisfied, Mutfwang had approached the apex court to set aside the judgment of the appellate court on grounds that the issue of qualification was a pre-election matter, adding that the party did not at any time violated the order of court regarding organising fresh congress.


Like Kano and Plateau, the apex court also restored the election victory of Dauda Lawal at the March 18 governorship election in Zamfara State for not being in tandem with the law.
Delivering judgment in the appeal by Lawal, Justice Agim, who delivered the lead judgment held that the judgment of the appellate court which nullified the judgment of the tribunal that affirmed election of Lawal as governor was perverse and ought to be set aside.
 “The judgment of the Court of Appeal have no evidential foundation and it is hereby set aside. The order setting aside the judgment of the tribunal and order for fresh election are hereby set aside.

 “The judgment of the tribunal dismissing the petition of the petitioners for lacking merit is hereby affirmed,” Justice Agim held.
According to the judgment the petitioners never provided sufficient evidence to prove allegations of irregularities non-compliance, corrupt practices, adding that petitioners failed to call relevant witnesses such as polling agents, party agents or people who witnessed the election.
Besides, the apex court pointed out that relevant materials like the BVAS, voter register, forms EC40G amongst others were also not presented before the court to prove petitioners case.
INEC had declared Lawal of the PDP governor haven scored a total of 377,726 votes to defeat then incumbent governor Matawalle who scored 311,976 votes. Lawal’s election was also affirmed by the Zamfara Election Petitions Tribunal last September, after dismissing Matawalle’s petition for being incompetent and lacking in merit.
 Besides the tribunal awarded a sum of N500, 000 fine against the petitioners for filing the petition.
However, a three-member panel of the Court of Appeal led by Justice Oyebisi Folayemi, nullified the return of Governor Lawal as the winner of the governorship poll.

 Justice Sybil Nwaka had ordered INEC to conduct a fresh election in three local government areas of the state, where elections had not been held previously or where results from various polling units were not counted.
Dissatisfied Lawal had approached the apex court to set aside the judgment of the appellate court and affirm the judgment of the tribunal which affirmed his victory at the poll.

 Lagos, Bauchi, Ebonyi, Abia, Cross River

Meanwhile, the apex court affirmed the elections of the governors of Lagos, Bauchi, Ebonyi, Abia and Cross River States.
The apex court affirmed the elections after dismissing the appeals against them for being incompetent and lacking in merit.
The apex court held that it found no cogent reason to deviate from the concurrent judgments of the tribunal and Court of Appeal which held that they were lawfully elected as governors.
Reacting to the development, constitutional lawyer and rights activist, Professor Mike Ozekhome, called for a review of the law that restricted National and states houses of assembly elections to the Court of Appeal.

Ozekhome who pointed out that the judgments of the apex court faulting the decisions of the appellate court on the 2023 general elections have vindicated him over his call for reforms in the judiciary,
He lamented the fate of the legislators who lost out because their case ended at the appellate court and was not privileged to get the wrongful judgments against them reversed.
The Appeal Court had sacked legislators of the PDP on account that they emerged from a faulty primary held in disobedience of an order of the Plateau State High Court.
However, the Supreme Court in its judgment held that the appellate court was wrong to have looked into how they were sponsored by the PDP, adding that the order of the State High Court which they had anchored their decision was made outside jurisdiction and therefore of no consequences.
Besides, the apex court added that evidence before it showed that the said order of the High Court was complied with when the PDP went to conduct a fresh election.

Otti Restates Resolve to Make Abia Excel

Reacting to the Supreme Court ruling, Abia State Governor, Mr. Alex Otti, yesterday, reiterated his commitment to make the State take its rightful place among the best states in Nigeria and beyond.
Speaking at a press conference at his Nvosi country home, following the affirmation of his mandate by the Supreme Court in Abuja, Otti said good governance has come to stay in Abia.
He assured Abians that he would work to restore their dignity and make them proud of their God’s own state.
Otti, who has apparently heaved a sigh of relief, expressed gratitude to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu “for remaining firm to the resolve that the judiciary should be independent.”

He noted that by making good his promise not to interfere in the affairs of the judiciary, the President has engendered positive outcomes in the country.
“If he (Tinubu) did not do that, perhaps, some of the judgments and verdicts that were given today may have been different,” Otti said.
“I want to encourage him to continue in that light. I believe that his non-intervention in the judiciary has produced positive results in the country today.”
The Abia governor, stated that, “because the rule of law has prevailed, people who were getting ready to burn down some places have been compelled to sheathe their swords.”
He lauded the judiciary for standing firm against the sinister plots of “desperate politicians” to thwart the will of the people, thereby proving that it remained the last hope of the common man.
Having faced a hot challenge by hid opponents, Otti gave kind words to all the governorship candidates that did not drag him to court, saying that they have been supportive.
He said: “I want to invite everyone including my opponents who were in court with me to say now that the battle is over, you have no choice but to sheathe your sword.

“I invite you to come with every idea you have, let us sit down and discuss because the most important thing is Abia state.
“Anybody that has anything to contribute to the positive development of Abia State is welcome, irrespective of your political leaning, irrespective of your ethnic leaning, irrespective of your religious leaning, we are one and the same people.”
The Special Adviser to the Governor on policy and special interventions, Rev Fr. Christian Anokwuru, described Otti’s court victory as, “a divine affirmation of the people’s resounding choice.”

 Normalcy Returns to Kano

Meanwhile, normalcy returned to the ancient city of Kano after the Supreme Court reinstated Governor Yusuf as the duly elected governor of the State.
Commercial activities were back to normal at major commercial areas of Kano as markets, shops, restaurants, offices, and minor business activities opened up for business.
At various markets, traders that were initially closed in the early hours of yesterday, such as the Kurmi, Dawanau, Rimi, Sabuwar Kasuwa, and Kantin Kwari markets, spontaneously started opening their shops and places of business shortly after the announcement.
The tension that mounted in the last six months drastically came down, as thousands of residents including men and women took to the major streets of Kano to celebrate the victory of the Governor following the declaration of Abba as duly elected governor of the State.
The tension that mounted in the last six months drastically came down, as thousands of residents including men and women took to the major streets of Kano to celebrate the victory of the Governor following the declaration of Abba as duly elected governor of the State.
Most of the supporters who occupied major streets across the metropolis chanted solidarity songs and danced in the streets, raising placards and party insignia.
Kano State Commissioner of Police commended the way and manner the youth conducted themselves, especially during the celebration, urging them to continue to cooperate with the police even after the celebration.

APC: Supreme Court Judgments Affirms Vibrancy, Independence of Judiciary

The All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday, said the judgments of the Supreme Court on Lagos, Kano, Zamfara, Plateau, Ebonyi, Bauchi, Abia, Cross River Governorship Election petitions provided a strong affirmation of the authority, vibrancy and independence of the Judiciary.

The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Felix Morka, in a statement, welcomed, with equanimity, the Supreme Court decisions on election petitions challenging the outcome of 2023 governorship elections in eight states.

 He said: “In Lagos, Ebonyi and Cross River States, the Supreme Court upheld the election of Governorship Candidates of our great party. However, the appeals on Kano, Zamfara, Bauchi, Plateau and Abia states were decided in favour of other political parties and their candidates.

 “While the Apex Court’s decisions will undoubtedly elicit mixed reactions and reviews, the decisions are final and binding on all parties to the legal contests.

“The decisions today provide a strong affirmation of the authority, vibrancy and independence of the Judiciary.”

Morka added that the ruling party had been consistent in its position that the Judiciary must be left alone to perform its important duty of resolving disputes, including electoral disputes as constitutionally mandated.

 He added that the decisions must serve as a rebuke to political opposition figures that vilified and denigrated the judiciary when judgments were handed against them in these same matters.

Jubilations in Jos

In Plateau, the announcement was followed by high jubilations in Jos, the state capital where supporters of the atmosphere have been tense since Thursday night.

Supporters of the PDP, men, women, and youths all took to the street to celebrate the victory of the Governor at the apex court. Commercial vehicles and motorcycles abandoned their duty posts to join the convoys of PDP supporters in driving around the city in jubilation.

Reacting to the victory, a former Governor of the state and Godfather to the Governor, Senator Jonah Jang gave the glory to God.

In a statement signed by his media consultant, Mr. Clinton Garuba, Jang said that “indeed, the governor’s victory at the Supreme Court is a victory for democracy and against the wishes of anti-democratic forces. We recall with sadness how anti-democratic forces tried as much as possible to manipulate the will of the people without success.”

Also congratulating the Governor, the in the State PDP said, “The Supreme Court’s decision is not only a sweet victory for all Plateau citizens, but also, a clear endorsement of the desire of our people, who came out en masse to vote overwhelmingly for PDP, on March 18, 2023, and we applaud the head of the judiciary for a thorough, articulated and well-delivered judgment.”

In a statement signed by its state Publicity Secretary, Mr. John Akans, the party added: “We, therefore, advise the petitioners, Mr. Nentawe Yilwatda and the APC, not to expend more resources in sponsoring opposition in the state, in pursuit of further political relevance that will amount to futile effort, but should join hands with Governor Caleb  Mutfwang, who has indeed, started so well and exhibited impressive governance and excellent leadership skills since assuming office, to continue the good work of delivering the dividends of Democracy to our people.”

Governor Eno Appreciate God, Judiciary, Akwa Ibom People for Victory

Governor Umo Eno lauded the judiciary over his Supreme Court victory dedicating it to God and Akwa Ibom people.

He expressed appreciation to his predecessor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, his wife, Pastor Patience Umo Eno, the Deputy Governor, Distinguished Senator Akon Eyakenyi, and others who worked hard for his victory at the March 18th, 2023 gubernatorial polls.

The Governor also commended Tinubu, for his inclusive leadership and being a father to all Nigerians irrespective of party affiliations.

 The Governor, who was at the State Exco meeting when he received the news of the affirmation of his mandate, was full of praise to God.

 “Let me thank the Nigerian Judiciary for the great and enduring work it has done to deepen and protect the guardrails of our democracy; the judiciary indeed remains the last hope of the common man. We will continue to have our hope and trust in them,” he said.

I’m Now More Focused to Serve Ebonyi People, Says Nwifuru

 Governor Francis Nwifuru of Ebonyi State said his administration was now more focused to deliver dividends of democracy to the people.

The Governor who was reacting to the judgment of the Supreme Court which upheld his election said equity, justice and fairness have prevailed

“Today is a historic day in our dear State. It is a day when light overtook darkness, it is a day we are victorious over the Supreme Court Judgment that finally upheld the populist mandate freely given to us by you.

“The judgment which was delivered by the erudite judges has finally nailed the protracted legal battle challenging the sincerity of purpose, courage of conviction, equity, fairness and justice —the fulcrum that our coming to power hinged.

 “It is a win for all of us who vehemently opposed the mercantilist politics that nearly serrated our shared vision as a people. And so, I congratulate you.

 “The People’s Charter of Needs which integrates the urgent needs of our people would have been truncated if not for your fervency in supplications to God Almighty for the judiciary to defend democratic ethos.”

He commended the nation’s judiciary for their sincerity and unbiased stance in the dispensation of justice.

Atiku, PDP Governors Hail Judgment

Relatedly, the presidential candidate of the PDP in the last 2023 general election and former Vice President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar, congratulated governors of the PDP whose elections were upheld by the Supreme Court on Friday.

The former vice president in a congratulatory message contained in a press statement by his media office, said the decision of the court was good news to the people of Bauchi, Plateau, Cross River and Zamfara States, and indeed, a win for constitutional democracy.

 Atiku, also congratulated Governor of Kano State, reaffirming his position that only a united opposition force could strengthen democracy in Nigeria.

“I am as prepared as ever, to lead the charge, alongside all our leaders and Governors, for the good of our country,” the Waziri Adamawa was quoted to have said.

 According to him, “Where Justice is seen to have been substantially rendered, we, as patriots and citizens, will always applaud.”

In a related development, the PDP Governors’ Forum, (PDP-GF) yesterday felicitated Governors of Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Enugu, Plateau and Zamfara States on their Supreme Court victories and affirmation of their tenure.

The PDP Governors’ forum described their victories as resounding affirmations of mandates of their people by the Apex Court.

In a statement by the director general of the forum, Cyril Maduabum, the forum said the victories were reassuring.

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