By SUZAN EDEH
WHEN Bauchi State Governor, Mallam Isa Yuguda decided to seek re-election in the April 2011 polls, he knew he had to fence off a challenge from the opposition and prepared himself for the challenges.
However, at the end of the April 28 elections, Yuguda had the upper hand beating his three main opponents by a wide margin. Yuguda scored 771, 503 votes, Alhaji Yusuf Tuggar of the Congress for Progressive Change(CPC) had 238,462 votes and Baba Tella of the Action Congress of Nigeria secured 157,237 votes, while the ANPP governorship candidate scored 102,093 votes. Upon this, the returning officer, Professor Hamisu Mohammad, declared Yuguda as the winner.
However, the development did not go down well with Tuggar and supporters of the CPC, who filed a petition before the Bauchi State Governorship Election Tribunal alleging electoral mal-practices.
He said that his party had video evidence of rigging carried out by the PDP, alleging that instances of rigging were more pronounced in Giade Local Council, especially at Isawa Ward and Gamawa Local Council at Udogbo Central Primary School.
Tuggar tendered video recordings of the alleged rigging where a polling officer was seen thumb printing many ballot papers in favour of one of the candidates.
He also alleged the post_election violence that followed the presidential election was a grand plan of the ruling party in the state to scare NYSC members away from taking part in the election. “The governor had trained his own ad hoc staff in Ningi and he had been funding them to keep them happy so that he would use them. So, the use of the corps members was an impediment to his plan,” Tugar alleged.
According to the CPC standard bearer, the curfew imposed on the state a day before the election was a ploy to completely dislocate the opposition. “With the curfew came arrests of senior figures of the opposition in places like Misau, Azare and Bauchi Town,” he said.
However, at the end of the proceedings things did not go in favour the CPC candidate.
Specifically, on November 10, the Tribunal upheld the election of Governor Yuguda.
While delivering his judgment, the Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice David Mann struck out the petition, saying that it lacked merit as Tuggar failed to prove all the allegations beyond reasonable doubt.
Justice Mann, assisted by two other judges, said that Tuggar failed to prove that the polls were marred by multiple thumb printing, thuggery, intimidations, harassment of voters, snatching of election materials, financial inducement and bribery.
Justice Mann emphasized that the testimonies of the 29 petitioner’s witnesses were not genuine as most of the evidence were “Hearsay.”
The chairman added that most of the documents filed alongside the petition were dumped on the tribunal and the petitioner failed to tender them during the trial and most of them were either abandoned or had to be tendered from the Bar.
He laid aside the forensic test allegedly conducted by a South African Forensic expert of over 254,610 votes out of the over 770,000 scored by Yuguda during the polls. “ The tribunal did not question the expertise of the forensic expert, but the way and manner in which the test was carried out, has left many questions unanswered especially the aspect of election materials pleaded in the petition were not tendered before the tribunal,” he said
Justice Mann adjudged that the forensic test failed to identify parts of the forensic reports, saying that the tribunal could not ascertain the number of ballot papers investigated as well as that of his five other colleagues.
He further said that the forensic expert failed to mention the names of his five other colleagues who screened the ballot papers.
Justice Mann disagreed with the Video Memory Cards submitted alongside the petition, which according to him, was dumped on the tribunal as it was not previewed before the tribunal while the tribunal lacks facilities that could preview the tapes.
Consequently, he struck out the petition for lack of merit and upheld the election of Yuguda, stating that “even if 245,610 votes said to have been invalidated by forensic test is removed from Yuguda’s over 770,000 votes, Yuguda is still leading with over 516,215 votes.”