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Breaking: Kano Governorship Tussle: Supreme Court reserves Judgement




The Supreme Court has reserved judgment in an appeal by governor, Abba Yusuf of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) seeking to upturn the decisions of Tribunal and Appeal Court nullifying his electoral victory in the March 18 governorship polls.

Hearing on the appeal of Abba Yusuf of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) commenced with the five-member panel of justices headed by Justice John Okoro stating that there are nine pending appeals before it.

The Court therefore urged counsels involved in the matter to meet and agree on which of the nine appeals and cross appeals that should be heard, with the outcome binding on the remaining eight.

This prompted the Court to go for a brief recess to allow the parties reach a common ground on the subject.

When the panel resumed, a consensus was reached to make the main appeal, that with suit number SC/CV/1179 be that which shall be heard by the Apex Court, with cross appeals such as that questioning the membership of Abba Yusuf abiding with the outcome.

Electoral body, INEC, through its counsel, Abubakar Mahmoud, began by stating that the key witness whose testimony was the ground for deducting the 165,616 votes of Yusuf deemed unlawful was a subpoened to give evidence.

He therefore says that his testimony was inadmissible having not been front loaded along with the main petition at the Tribunal and as such his testimony and exhibits tendered are therefore incompetent.

INEC’s Counsel informed the Apex Court that the said contested 165,616 ballot papers were authentic and originated from INEC and not elsewhere. He says it’s not the duty of a voter, on the day of election, to check if a ballot paper is signed or stamped and without date of election, adding that’s the task of a party agent.

Mahmoud further informed the Apex Court panel that the recounting of votes was done privately at the Tribunal chambers after the deduction of the contested 165,616 votes. He adds that even when they were brought to the Court of Appeal they weren’t demonstrated.

INEC’s Counsel further told the Apex Court panel that only a portion of the unlawful ballots were examined at the Tribunal.

Mahmoud thereby clarified that he is not taking sides except with respect to the correct interpretation of the law.

On Yusuf’s membership of the NNPP, he stated that is an internal affair of the political party concerned and not for an external body, citing previous decisions of the apex court. He therefore added that it is not a constitutional matter as being claimed by the APC which relies on Section 177(c) of the Constitution, as amended, and Section 77 of the Electoral Act.

Mahmoud faulted the practice of political parties which seek to use the Court as an “arena” to get victory after the voters had decided. He informed the Apex Court that the NNPP submitted the name of Abba Yusuf as its candidate for the governorship election, and that if the APC had anything against Yusuf’s candidacy it should have done so after INEC published the names of candidates.

Yusuf through his counsel, Wole Olanipekun, faulted the nullification of his electoral victory on grounds of the INEC presiding officer failing to sign or stamp the ballot papers. Wole Olanipekun argued that, that has nothing to do with the Electoral Act, insisting it is on INEC’s guidelines and as such not sufficient grounds to deem the votes unlawful warranting nullification.

Olanipekun told the Apex Court panel that based on the evidence given by an expert witness during the Tribunal stage of the matter, only about 1,800 ballots were not signed or stamped. And that those are insignificant figures and as such insufficient to void the election.

On the membership of Yusuf, Olanipekun stressed that it is the internal affair of the party concerned, with the courts therefore lacking jurisdiction to decide on the choice of a political party’s candidate. He therefore prayed the court to upturn the decision of the Appeal Court which affirmed the decision of the Tribunal sacking the governor.

Akin Olujimi, counsel for the APC insists that Section 177(c) of the Constitution is a key determiner of the Kano matter, and that the matter being a constitutional issue gives it jurisdiction to decide on it.

In his submission, counsel for the NNPP, Adegboyega Amowolo informed the Apex Court that at no point in the Tribunal proceedings was there any pleading against the admissibility of the ballot papers on grounds of being unlawful because they were not signed or stamped.

Amowolo further added that the Supreme Court and any other court for that matter lacks jurisdiction to decide on the choice of a political party’s candidate for elective positions, stressing it’s the internal affair of the said party.

He also submitted that there were no evidence to sustain the APC’s Petition from the get go. He thereby urged the Apex Court to allow the NNPP’s appeal seeking to affirm the return by INEC of Abba Yusuf as the elected governor of Kano State while praying for the setting aside of the decisions of the Tribunal and Appeal Court voiding Yusuf’s electoral victory.

The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja had on Friday 17 November affirmed the Tribunal decision that nullified the election of Governor Abba Yusuf of Kano State.

This is after the Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, has in a virtual proceeding, on September 20 declared Nasiru Gawuna winner of the March 18 election after deducting some “illegal” votes credited to Abba Yusuf.