Supreme Court Victory for Nasarawa, Kaduna, Kebbi, Gombe, Delta and Ogun Governors

It was victory all the way for six state governors who had their cases determined by the Supreme Court in Abuja on Friday. Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa state, Governor Uba Sani of Kaduna state, Governor Nasir Idris of Kebbi state, Governor Inuwa Yahaya of Gombe state, Governor Sheriff Oborevwori of Delta state and Governor

It was victory all the way for six state governors who had their cases determined by the Supreme Court in Abuja on Friday. Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa state, Governor Uba Sani of Kaduna state, Governor Nasir Idris of Kebbi state, Governor Inuwa Yahaya of Gombe state, Governor Sheriff Oborevwori of Delta state and Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun state were all affirmed by the apex court as validly elected as Chief Executives of their states for a term of four years.

Nasarawa State

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court on Friday January 19 dismissed the appeal filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate Mr. David Umbugadu against the election of Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State.

A five-member panel of the Supreme Court, led by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, dismissed the appeal for lack of merit although no cost was awarded.

In the judgement, Justice Kekere-Ekun said:“The issues in this appeal are resolved against the appellant. The appeal lacks merit and it is hereby dismissed.”

She said the Court of Appeal in Abuja was right to have “set aside the decision of the tribunal” which had declared Mr Umbugadu the winner of the poll.
“The appeal is frivolous, vexatious and lacking in merit. It is hereby dismissed”, Justice Tijjani Abubakar, a member of the Supreme Court panel, said while contributing to the lead decision.

On 2nd October 2023, the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in Lafia nullified Governor Sule’s victory and declared Mr. David Ombugadu as the winner of the poll.

Dissatisfied, Governors Sule and the All Progressives Congress (APC) sought to overturn the verdict by appealing the judgment of the tribunal.

The Court of Appeal in its judgment on 23rd November 2023, faulted the verdict of the tribunal and affirmed Governor Sule’s election as governor.

Delivering judgement on the appeal filed by Governor Sule, a three-member panel of the appeal court had held that the Nasarawa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal was wrong to have declared Mr. David Ombugadu, the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as the winner of the 18 March election.

The Court upheld that the tribunal relied on legally inadmissible evidence to declare Ombugadu as the winner of the March 18 poll.

Specifically, the appellate court held that the tribunal wrongly relied on the evidence of eight of the PDP witnesses whose statements on oath were not front-loaded alongside the petition.

The appellate court further held that Section 285(5) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended; Section 132(7) of the Electoral Act 2022 and Paragraphs 4(5) (6) and 14(2) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act; stipulate that every written statement on oath must be filed alongside the petition, within the statutorily allocated time.

Aggrieved by the judgment of the Court of Appeal, the PDP Candidate approached the Supreme Court to upturn the verdict.

Kaduna State

The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate, Alhaji Isah Ashiru, challenging the election of Governor Uba Sani of Kaduna State.

The apex court on Friday also affirmed the judgments of the lower courts i.e. the tribunal and the court of appeal, which had upheld Uba’s victory in the March 2023 governorship election.

The judgment was also unanimous while no cost was awarded.

In the judgement delivered on 28 September, 2023, two members of the Kaduna State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, had in a majority decision ruled that the petition brought by the PDP and Mr. Ashiru failed because the petitioners were too late to apply for pre-hearing notice after filing their petition.

This decision essentially shot down the petition without considering its merit.

But the tribunal went further to rule on the merit, to cover the field of all the issues raised in the petition. Delivering judgement on the merit of the case, the tribunal, again split by two-to-one, ruled that it would have declared the election inconclusive had the petition passed the procedural test.

Given the nature of the judgement, both sides to the dispute headed to the Court of Appeal to challenge the aspects of the verdict they found to be unfavourable.

But the Court of Appeal in Abuja on 24th November, 2023 affirmed the election of Governor Uba Sani of Kaduna State.

The three-member panel, in a unanimous judgement, dismissed the five-grounds of appeal filed by Alhaji Isa Ashiru, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s candidate in the 18 March governorship election in the state.

The Court held that the appeal was unmeritorious. It resolved both the appeals and cross-appeal in favour of the APC.

It set aside the aspect of the tribunal’s judgement directing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a supplementary election in some polling units in parts of the state.

The court also said the trial tribunal was wrong to have declared the poll inconclusive.

Justice Obietonbara Owupele Daniel-Kalio, who read the lead judgments on the main and cross-appeals, held that the 18 March election which produced Mr. Sani was conducted in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act.

Kebbi State

The Supreme Court on Friday affirmed the election of Governor Nasir Idris of Kebbi state.

The apex court in a unanimous decision by a five-member panel, dismissed as lacking in merit, an appeal that was brought before it by the Peoples Democratic Party( PDP) and its candidate, Alhaji Aminu Bande.

In the lead judgement that was delivered by Justice Uwani Abba-Aji, the apex court held that it found no reason to set aside the concurrent verdicts of the Court of Appeal and the Kebbi State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, which declared Governor Nasir of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the valid winner of the gubernatorial poll that was held in the state on March 18, 2023.

“My conclusion is that this appeal lacks merit and it is hereby dismissed,” Justice Abba-Aji said in the lead decision.

In her contribution to the lead verdict, Justice Kekere-Ekun said, “There is no scintilla of merit in this appeal, and I accordingly dismiss it.”

The nation’s electoral body ,the Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC) had declared the Kebbi State governorship election inconclusive following massive vote cancellations and over-voting in 20 of the 21 LGAs in the state.

The Commission subsequently conducted a supplementary election on April 15, at the end of which it declared that Governor Idris of the APC who polled 409,225 votes to beat Bande of the PDP who had 360,940 votes.

Dissatisfied with the outcome of the election, the PDP and its candidate approached the tribunal to challenge the result.

In its judgement, the Justice Ofem Ofem-led tribunal dismissed the petition as lacking in merit.

The decision of the tribunal was affirmed by the Court of Appeal, which held that the appellants failed to establish all the allegations they raised in their petition.

The court stressed that the allegation of forgery levelled against the Deputy Governor of the State,Alhaji Abubakar Tafida, was not proved as required by the law.

It further held that the issues of non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act in the conduct of the election could not stand since the appellants failed to show how it substantially affected the outcome of the poll.

Gombe State

Governor Inuwa Yahaya of Gombe State who contested on the ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was on Friday given a lifeline to be in office for the next four years.

A five-member court panel led by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun dismissed the appeal filed by Alhaji Jibrin Barde of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) challenging Governor Yahaya’s election.

Alhaji Barde challenged the outcome of the 18th March ,2023 polls, alleging electoral malpractices and perjury against Governor Yahaya.

But affirming Governor Yahaya’s election Justice Kekere-Ekun said: “Having critically considered the concurrent decisions of the lower court and the Court of Appeal, I find no merit in this appeal. The decisions of the courts below are hereby affirmed.”

The Court of Appeal in Abuja had in November last year affirmed the election of Governor Yahaya as the duly elected governor of Gombe State.

Justice Theresa Orji-Agbadua of the Court of Appeal who delivered the lead judgement of the court’s panel of justices, said Alhaji Barde’s case lacked merit.

The Court held that the petitioner at the tribunal, failed to prove allegations of non-qualification, perjury and certificate forgery levelled against Governor Yahaya and the electoral commission.

Delta State

The Supreme Court affirmed the victory of Delta State Governor, Sheriff Oborevwori, in the March 18, 2023, governorship election by dismissing the appeal filed to overturn the election.

A five-member panel of the apex court justices gave the ruling against the appeals of Senator Omo-Agege, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Ken Pela of the Labour Party (LP), and Kenneth Gbagi of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), who had insisted that the election in which Governor Oborevwori was elected was marred by non-compliance and election malpractices.

Justice John Inyang Okoro, reading the judgement on behalf of the panel of judges, concluded that Omo-Agege had not proven that the election was marred by the purported corrupt practices, noting that the case was baseless and without merit.

The judge also gave similar rulings against the appeals of the candidates of the SDP and LP for lacking in merit.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Sheriff Oborevwori of the PDP as the winner of the Delta state governorship election, with 360,237 votes ahead of Omo-Agege of the APC and Pela of the LP, who polled 240,229 and 48,027 votes, respectively.

Not satisfied with the outcome of the poll, they approached the tribunal and court of appeals on the ground that there were malpractices during the election, but the two courts dismissed their petitions and appeals for failure to prove the allegations against the victory of the PDP candidate.

Omo-Agege and other aggrieved parties, not satisfied with the ruling of the lower court, approached the apex court for a different ruling. However, the Supreme Court agreed with the lower courts on the matter.

Ogun State

The Supreme Court affirmed the Governor of Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun, as the validly elected candidate in the governorship election that took place in the state on March 18, 2023.

Delivering the judgement on behalf of the five-member panel of Justices of the Supreme Court, Justice Tijjani Abubakar rejected the appeal of the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Ladi Adebutu who had faulted the governorship election on the ground that Dapo Abiodun of the APC did not obtain the majority of valid votes cast.

The apex court disagreed with the appellant, ruling that Mr. Ladi Adebutu’s appeal against the state governor was unmeritorious and should be dismissed.

The results of the state’s gubernatorial election did not sit well with Mr. Adebutu, who insisted that even though Prince Dapo Abiodun was declared the victor with 276, 298 votes, ahead of him with 262,38 votes, the poll was marred by mass rigging and voter suppression in 99 polling units, leading to the disenfranchisement of over 40,000 voters in the state.

Mr. Adebutu then approached the election petition tribunal which declared that his case was unmeritorious.

Not satisfied with the ruling of the tribunal, the PDP candidate approached the Court of Appeal, which however had a split judgement. While the majority judgement dismissed the matter, the minority ruled that INEC should conduct a fresh election within 90 days.

Encouraged by the minority ruling of the appellate court, Mr. Adebutu approached the Supreme Court to upturn the outcome of the elections. However, the apex ruled that Dapo Abiodun would continue to be at the helm of affairs for the next four years.

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