The Supreme Court, on Tuesday, fixed August 31 to deliver judgments on two separate appeals that are seeking to nullify the election of Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State.
A seven-man panel of Justices of the apex court led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Tanko Ibrahim, okayed the appeals for justice after all the parties adopted their final briefs of argument.
The appeals were brought before the apex court by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its governorship candidate in the state, Musa Wada, and the Social Democratic Party, SDP, and its candidate, Natasha Akpoti.
The appellants alleged that governor Bello of the All Progressives Congress, APC, was not validly elected by the majority of lawful votes cast.
They prayed the Supreme Court to set aside the concurrent judgments of both the Kogi State Governorship Elections Petitions Tribunal and the Court of Appeal in Abuja, which declined to void the return of governor Bello by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, as a winner of the gubernatorial contest.
Cited as Respondents in both appeals were INEC, governor Bello, and the APC. Meanwhile, the CJN led panel, dismissed a third appeal that was brought against governor Bello by the Democratic People’s Party, DPP, after it was withdrawn by counsel to the party, Mr. M.S. Ibrahim.
The panel stressed that the appeal was a “worthless academic exercise”, noting that the party fielded an underaged candidate that was 31 years old as at the time of the election.
It further awarded a cost of N200, 000 against the DPP. It will be recalled that the tribunal had in a two-to-one split decision on May 23, affirmed governor Bello’s election.
Whereas two Justices of the three-member panel tribunal, dismissed the petition by Wada and the PDP, a third member of the panel gave a dissenting judgment that upheld the petition and ordered a fresh election in Kogi State.
In their majority verdict, Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Kashim Kaigama and a member of the panel, Justice Baraka Wali, held that the petitioners failed to by way of credible evidence, substantiate their allegation that governor Bello’s election was not in substantial compliance with both the Constitution and the Electoral Act.
The duo equally agreed that the petitioners were unable to prove any ground of their petition to warrant the nullification of the outcome of the election.
However, in his dissenting judgment, Justice Ohimai Ovbiagele, upheld the petitioners’ case and nullified election results in seven out of the 21 Local Government Areas in the state.
Justice Ovbiagele went ahead and sacked governor Bello by declaring that he was not the winner of the governorship election, having failed to secure the majority of lawful votes and the required constitutional spread.
She ordered INEC to conduct a fresh election in seven local governments within three months.
Meantime, in a unanimous judgment on July 4, the Court of Appeals in Abuja dismissed all the petitions and upheld the verdict of the tribunal that affirmed governor Bello’s election.
A five-man panel of the appellate court led by Justice Adamu Jauro held that the appeals that were lodged by both the PDP and SDP candidates lacked merit.
INEC had on November 18, declared Bello of the APC as the winner of the Kogi governorship election.
The Returning Officer, Ibrahim Garba, who is the Vice-Chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, declared that Bello polled the highest number of votes in the election with 406,222 to defeat Wada of the PDP who scored 189,704 in the election.
As collated by INEC, Bello defeated Wada with a total of 216,518, while Natasha Akpoti of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) came a distant third in the election with 9482 votes.
Nevertheless, Wada of the PDP, in the petition marked EPT/KG/GOV/06/2019, prayed the tribunal to annul governor Bello’s re-election, insisting that the contest was rigged.
Aside from contending that he won the election, Wada, alleged that the exercise was marred by widespread electoral malpractices and violence, adding that there was substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act.
The petitioners prayed the tribunal to issue an order nullifying the Certificate of Return the INEC issued to governor Bello and declare that Wada scored the majority of votes cast at the election and fulfilled that having fulfilled requirements of section 179(2)(a) and (b) of the Constitution.
Alternatively, the Petitioners prayed for an order directing INEC to conduct the supplementary election in polling units where elections were canceled, noting that the margin of lead between the 2nd Respondent and the 1st Petitioner, being Iess than the registered voters in the canceled polling units.
They further sought a declaration that the Kogi governorship election that held on November 16, 2019, and the subsequent declaration and return of the 2nd Respondent, were voided by corrupt practices in breach of the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010 (As amended), which substantially affected the results of the election.