• Orders Fresh Election Within 90 Days
• PDP Expresses Shock
IN a unanimous decision of a five-man panel, the Supreme Court yesterday nullified the election of the Kebbi State Governor Usman Saidu Nasamu Dakingari of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Delivering the lead judgment, Justice Walter Onnonghen held that the governor was not validly elected and consequently set aside the verdict of the Court of Appeal, which upheld Dakingari’s election. .
The Supreme Court held that the appellate court, not being the final court in the determination of appeals arising from the conduct of governorship elections, lacked the power to deliver judgment and defer the reasons for its decision, more so, to a date which is outside the mandatory 60 days prescribed by Section 285 (7) of the 1999 Constitution.
According to Justice Onnonghen, “it is obligatory for the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court to dispose of an appeal within 60 days from the date of the decision being appealed.
“Section 285 (7) implies that both the decision and the reasons for those decisions must be completed within the stipulated time. Any decision without a reason is no decision at all. The judiciary has no option than to work within the time frame provided by the law.”
The court subsequently allowed the appeal of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) candidate, Alhaji Abubakar Mallam Abubakar challenging the validity of the decision of the Court of Appeal and declared it invalid.
Accordingly, the apex court nullified the election and ordered the Independent national Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct fresh polls in the state within 90 days.
The CPC and its candidate had gone to the tribunal, seeking the nullification of Dakingari’s election on the grounds that he was not validly elected. The tribunal eventually removed the governor on technical grounds and ordered fresh polls, on the basis that INEC’s documents presented as exhibits were not on the prescribed forms.
But Dakingari approached the Court of Appeal, Sokoto Division, claiming that the tribunal’s verdict was flawed.
Justice Aminu Sanusi of the Court of Appeal on December 28, last year upheld his election on the grounds that the INEC exhibits that were not on the prescribed forms did not vitiate the result of the election.
The appellate court also noted that it was empowered by Section 285 of the 1999 Constitution to make a pronouncement on the matter and that based on reasons adduced and oral submissions made, Dakingari’s election was in order. It, therefore, upheld his election and quashed the judgment of the tribunal.
The court also held that CPC’s cross-appeal that demands that a Certificate of Return be issued to its candidate, Abubakar, was devoid of any merit and dismissed it.
But the Supreme Court on November 9, last year restored the petition filed by the CPC and its candidate, to the Kebbi State Election Petition Tribunal for further hearing and determination.
Abubakar had approached the apex court, challenging the decision of the Court of Appeal, which dismissed his petition against the April 26 last year electoral victory of Dakingari.
Justice Francis Tabai, who led four other Justices of the apex court, observed that: “Paragraph 14 (1) of the Third Schedule of the Electoral Act 2010 subscribes the type of application that comes by way of motion. This application was filed before Paragraph 47 (1u) of the Third Schedule of the Electoral Act was enacted. There is a conflicting judgment handed down by the Court of Appeal in this matter. This appeal succeeds and therefore sets aside the ruling of the Court of Appeal.
“I, therefore, order that the matter be restored back to the Election Petition Tribunal in Kebbi State.”
At the time the Supreme Court gave the order, the CPC and Abubakar had barely four days left for the tribunal to wind up.
The petitioners had during a pre-hearing session at the tribunal’s sitting in Birnin-Kebbi, the state capital, filed their case through a letter, which the tribunal allowed on the ground that the provision of the Electoral Act, which does not support the procedure, came after the process was already filed.
But the Court of Appeal ruled otherwise, saying the application for pre-hearing notice ought to be through a motion.
Adopting their briefs of argument, the petitioner’s counsel, Kola Awodehin (SAN), urged the court to allow the appeal, adding that the justice of the case requires that the petitioner be given fair hearing. According to him, election petition matters do not concern the interest of an individual, but that of a larger society and cannot be sacrificed for technicalities.
But Dakingari, through his lawyers, led by Yusuf Ali (SAN) and Damian Dodo (SAN), urged the apex court to dismiss the appeal, saying justice must be done at all times according to the law.
The sacking of Dakingari is coming days after his Sokoto counterpart, Alhaji Aliyu Wamakko, who won the recent election in the state, was sworn in.
Meanwhile, PDP has described the ruling as shocking. A statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Prof. Rufai Ahmed Alkali, said in as much as the party has faith in the judiciary, some of the judgments coming from the courts were worrisome.
“The PDP has received with great shock the verdict of the Supreme Court, which nullified the election of Dakingari. While our faith in the judiciary remains unwavering, we are deeply concerned with the trend of judgments, some of which breed unnecessary tension and instability.
“The National Chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje, on behalf of the National Working Committee (NEC) and the entire members of the PDP is deeply touched by this temporary setback, but calls on all our teeming supporters in Kebbi State to remain calm, law abiding and continue to support the PDP, which remains the most formidable and purposeful political party in Nigeria.
“We, however, wish to commend Dakingari for all his efforts in the courts and urge him and his team in the state to be steadfast, courageous, while the party prepares for a rerun elections, which God willing, we shall win,” the statement read.