By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Supreme Court, on Tuesday, fixed January 20 to deliver judgement on the appeal seeking to nullify the election of governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State.
A seven-man panel of justices of the apex court led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Tanko Muhammad, reserved its verdict on the appeal marked SC/1450/2019, which the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Abba Yusuf, filed to challenge Ganduje’s re-election.
The appellant, though his lawyer, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, contended before the apex court that he scored the highest votes at the governorship contest that held on March 9, 2019, and satisfied section 179 (2) (a) and (b) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
In the notice of appeal he filed on November 30, the PDP candidate alleged that the Kano State Returning Officer had after results of 44 Local Government Areas were declared, cancelled results in 207 polling units in the state and declared the election as inconclusive and scheduled a re-run election for March 23, 2019.
He prayed the apex court to set-aside the concurrent judgements of both the Kano State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal and the Court of Appeal, which dismissed his petition and affirmed Ganduje of the All Progressives Congress, APC, as the valid winner of the gubernatorial poll.
Specifically, he prayed the Supreme Court to determine, “Whether the decision and action of the Returning Officer, who in exercise of his powers under section 179 (2) (a) and (b) of the 1999 Constitution, section 69 of the Electoral Act and paragraph 41 of the Regulations & Guidelines of INEC, who after announcing results of 44 LGAs in Kano, cancelled the results already recalled at the Polling Units, collated at the Wards, LGA and the State, is not illegal”.
As well as whether the State Returning Officer did not act in ultra-vires of his powers when he cancelled results in 207 polling units, declared the election as inconclusive and ordered a re-run.
The Appellant relied on the Supreme Court decided case law in Otti Vs Ikpeazu to argue that the action of the Returning Officer was illegal and unconstitutional.
“Therefore, the result of the scheduled second election, being predicated on a null and void decision of the Returning Officer, cannot produce lawful votes”, counsel to the Appellant, Awomolo, SAN, contended.
According to him, “The only lawful votes at the Kano State governorship election are those announced by the Returning Officer on March 11, in Form EC8D”.
However, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, which was cited as the 1st Respondent in the appeal, urged the apex court to dismiss the case and uphold the judgements of the two lower courts.
INEC’s lawyer, Ahmed Raji, SAN, told the court that contrary to the submission of the Appellant, the Kano State Returning Officer never cancelled votes.
He maintained that evidence on record showed that the Returning Officer was prevented by agents of the PDP from collating results in some areas.
Likewise, governor Ganduje, through his lawyer, M.N. Duru, prayed the court to dismiss the appeal with a cost of N5million for want of merit.
He argued that as at March 11, the Presiding Officer, could not have declared any candidate as winner, adding that out of the 207 polling units, 62 of them were for Gama Ward where he said PDP agents blocked INEC officials from collating results.
Ganduje told the apex court that one of the PDP agents he identified as Dr. Yakassi, had in his evidence as PW-30 at the tribunal, admitted that he catered away original results and other sensitize INEC material, locked himself in a room with a pen for over one hour and claimed he later took the results to the police station.
“Allowing this appeal will mean the sanctioning of election violence and giving credit to someone who had clearly violated the law and admitted same in his Evidence in Chief and Cross-Examination”.
Ganduje told the court that an expert witness that was brought by the PDP had at the tribunal, admitted that INEC was right in its decision to cancel results from 77 Wards.
On its part, the APC, through its lawyer, Dr. Alex Iziyon, SAN, also urged the court to dismiss the appeal.
After it had listened to all the parties and heard a Cross-Appeal marked SC/1498/19, which was filed by Ganduje, the CJN-led panel, reserved its judgement till January 20.
Other members of the panel are Justices Sylvester Ngwuta, Kayode Ariwola, Ekekere Ekun, Uwani Abba Ajji and Amiru Sanusi.