There is a growing tension from the indigenes of Kano as the five-member panel of judges of the Supreme Court led by Justice Inyang Okoro on Thursday reserved judgment in the appeal filed by the Kano State Governor, Abba Yusuf, and the New Nigeria Peoples Party, challenging judgement of the Court of Appeal on the
There is a growing tension from the indigenes of Kano as the five-member panel of judges of the Supreme Court led by Justice Inyang Okoro on Thursday reserved judgment in the appeal filed by the Kano State Governor, Abba Yusuf, and the New Nigeria Peoples Party, challenging judgement of the Court of Appeal on the 2023 Kano State gubernatorial election.
The Supreme Court was regaled with six hours of fierce legal fireworks between legal icons, Chief Wole Olanipekun, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) for Governor Abba Yusuf, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo counsel to the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) Chief Akin Olujimi (SAN) counsel to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Mr. A. B. Mahmoud, counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC).
The Kano State Governor, Alhaji Abba Yusuf and his party, the New Nigeria People Party (NNPP) filed an appeal against the 17 November decision of the Court of Appeal which declared the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Alhaji Yusuf Gawuna as the winner of the 26 March gubernatorial election in the state.
Alhaji Yusuf and his party also told Supreme Court that there were inconsistencies in the Certified True Copy (CTC) judgement of the Court of Appeal that invalidated the governor’s election and granted him N1 million in damages.
At Thursday’s proceedings, Chief Olanipekun SAN asked the Supreme Court to set aside the decision of the Appeal Court and the tribunal. He passionately pleaded with the five-man Apex Court panel to determine whether or not, the guidelines of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will be a basis for nullifying the election victory of a candidate who won the election by a margin of over 100,000.
The NNPP counsel argued that this is the first time in the annals of electoral jurisprudence where an election was nullified on the grounds that ballot papers were not signed or stamped at the back. According to him, INEC guidelines does not envisage that the courts would nullify an election on the basis of INEC purported failure to stamp ballot papers at the back.
Chief Olanipekun maintained that his client’s membership of the NNPP is a pre-election matter and that the Court of Appeal lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter. His words: “The judgment of the lower courts is very unfair to the appellant and we urge your lordships to upturn it” .
“Nobody raised the legality or illegality of the ballots. They tendered the ballot from the bar. Nobody spoke to it .The ballot papers were legal because they were issued by INEC officials”, he stressed.
However , counsel to the All Progressives Congress (APC) , Chief Akin Olujimi maintained that the Electoral Act mandates INEC’s Presiding Officers to sign the back of ballot papers to make them legal and lawful.
Chief Olujinmi said the findings of the tribunal were simply that the ballot papers were not signed at the back and not dated and proceeded to cancel election where the ballots were used.
He argued that the electoral irregularities are manifest on the disputed ballot papers. On the issue of party membership, Chief Olujinmi argued that the NNPP membership register did not show the name of Alhaji Abba Yusuf on it.
Counsel for the electoral body, INEC,Mr. A. B. Mahmoud, SAN supported the arguments of Chief Olanipekun.
He submitted that the decisions of the lower courts were flawed.
According to Mr. Mahmoud , the testimony of a subpoenaed witness(PW32) which the tribunal relied on to sack Alhaji Abba Yusuf were not front loaded along with the petition at the tribunal contrary to the Electoral Act.
“They were our ballot papers issued by INEC,” Mr. Mahmoud said adding that it was not the duty of a voter to check if ballot papers were signed or not but that of the party agents.
Mr. Mahmuod said INEC’s contention is that the tribunal went far beyond its powers in vetting each of the ballot papers in their chambers and not in open court.
He said that membership of a political party was clearly an internal affairs of a political party and Alhaji Abba Yusuf’s name was forwarded to INEC prior to the election while his party membership card was tendered in evidence at the tribunal.
Counsel for the NNPP, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo SAN said ballot papers were actually cast at the polling units but the APC legal team did not specify the polling units affected at the Tribunal in line with rules of court.
Chief Awomolo said ballot papers not signed ought not to affect the validity of an election.
“My submission is that election is the decision of the people. Tribunal was wrong to recount the ballots in its chambers” stressing that not a single witness told the Tribunal that ballot papers were not stamped.
He urged the Apex Court to restore the 165,165 cancelled votes of Abba Yusuf and affirm his election.
After taking arguments of parties, Justice Okoro reserved judgment on the governor’s appeal.
The tribunal had in September nullified Yusuf’s election, citing over 160,000 invalid votes due to missing signatures and stamps on the ballot papers.
The APC had challenged the election outcome at the Tribunal, alleging electoral malpractice.
Yusuf, however, appealed the tribunal’s decision to the Court of Appeal.
But the Court of Appeal in Abuja dismissed the appeal filed by the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) candidate against the judgment of the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal which declared the All Progressive Congress (APC) flag bearer, Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna, as the winner of the state’s governorship poll held on March 18.
Majority of them were stopped at the first gate leading to the Presidential Villa and the Supreme Court. Others that managed to escape the security arrangement were stopped at the main gate of the Supreme Court building.
Again, a good number of the supporters were fished out at the entrance to the court room.
Heavy security presence was noticed in and around the premises of the Supreme Court.
Few lawyers made it into the court room as only counsels to the parties were considered. Some lawyers could not access the court room.