By Ikechukwu Nnochiri & Boluwaji Obahopo
ABUJA—RESPITE came the way of Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, yesterday, as the Supreme Court, in a unanimous judgment by seven-man panel of justices, upheld the election that brought him to power. The panel, headed by Justice Sylvester Nwuta, dismissed as lacking in merit four separate appeals that challenged Bello’s emergence as governor.
Whereas two of the appeals the apex court dismissed were lodged by erstwhile running mate to late Prince Abubakar Audu, James Faleke and immediate past governor of the state, Idris Wada, two other appeals were filed by the Labour Party and the African Democratic Congress, ADC.
While Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun delivered the lead verdict in Faleke’s appeal, head of the panel, Justice Ngwuta gave lead judgment that dismissed Wada’s case. In all the four judgements, the apex court affirmed August 4 verdict of the Court of Appeal in Abuja which also dismissed all the appeals.
It held that the appellate court was right when it upheld the June 6 judgment of the Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal. However, the Supreme Court said it would, September 30, adduce reasons for it deciding to uphold Bello’s election victory.
Meanwhile, reacting to the judgement yesterday, governor Bello said his case “was long ago settled in heaven but only affirmed by the Supreme Court,” adding that the Supreme Court was a great credit to democracy.
He thanked the All Progressives Congress, APC, for giving him the chance to serve as a governor and President Muhammadu Buhari who he said had in line with his belief in justice and fairness, declined to interfere in the dispute.
Bello expressed gratitude to late governorship candidate of the APC, Prince Audu Abubakar, saying “I promise that I will never put him to shame”. Insisting that there was no victor or vanquished in the dispute, Governor Bello urged both Wada and Faleke to bury the hatchet and join hands with him to move the state forward, adding“I also urge Kogites to be patient with me in this journey. In the end, Kogi State will surely not be the same again.”
It will be recalled that though a five-man panel of Justices of the appellate court, led by Justice Jummai Hannatu-Sankey, were unanimous in their decision that Faleke’s petition lacked substance, nevertheless, the court, in a dissenting judgment by Justice Ita George Mbaba, upheld Wada’s appeal. Justice Mbaba voided the Certificate of Return issued to Governor Bello by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
No regrets – Faleke:
The deputy governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress in the November 21, 2015 governorship election, James Faleke, in his reaction, said he had no regrets challenging the decision to declare the election inconclusive.
According to him, the step was taken in good faith to protect the interest of the over 240,000 voters that voted for the Audu/Faleke ticket in that election. Faleke in a statement by his spokesperson, Duro Meseko, said: “We have heard the judgment handed down by the Supreme Court jurists upholding Yahaya Bello as governor. We shall wait for the full text of the judgment to know why they came to that conclusion. But let it be stated here that we have no regrets challenging the declaration of our election as inconclusive by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.”
ALGON lauds judiciary:
The Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, ALGON, Kogi State chapter, commended the justices at the Supreme Court on its judgment reaffirming Alhaji Bello as governor. The association in a statement, described it as confirmation of God’s wish for the state. Chairman of ALGON, Taofiq Isah in a statement by his Media Adviser, Abubakar Hussain, described the judgment as a welcome development and victory for the rule of law.
The immediate past governor of the state, Captain Idris Wada, said he would not react until he had seen and studied the judgment.