S’Court Reverses Yusuf, Lawal, Mutfwang’s Sack; Upholds Nwifuru, Otu, Bala Mohammed’s Election

The Supreme Court has certified the election of Abba Yusuf as Kano State Governor.

A five-member panel of the apex court held that the Tribunal and the Court of Appeal erred by sacking Yusuf, candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), as State Governor.

The Supreme Court had reserved judgment after hearing the appeals on December 21, 2023.

The panel led by John Okoro held that the tribunal was wrong to have invalidated 165,663 votes from the votes polled by Yusuf.

The tribunal had deducted the votes because the said ballot papers were not stamped and signed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) pursuant to Section 71 of the Electoral Act.

However, the apex court held that the ballot papers cannot be invalidated because they came from the booklet of ballot papers which carried official logos and the map of Nigeria.

The court held that the petitioners failed to prove that the said ballot papers were not part of the booklet of ballot papers deployed by INEC and furnished to presiding officers in the various polling units.

On the issue of party membership, the court held that it is an internal affair that cannot be challenged by a member of another party.

Consequently, the court held that “the judgment of the lower court voiding the election of the appellant is hereby set aside.”

Recall that on November 17, 2023, the court of appeal upheld the tribunal’s verdict and added that Yusuf was not a member of the NNPP when he contested the election.

However, controversy trailed the verdict days later when a Certified True Copy (CTC) of the appeal court judgment surfaced, contradicting the November 17 ruling.

The copy of the judgment ruled against and in favour of the NNPP candidate simultaneously, eliciting outrage on social media platforms and the streets.

The Appeal Court issued a statement blaming “clerical error” for the contradictions or discrepancies.

In its ruling, Okoro said: “There is no proof that the said ballot papers were not the ones used at the election.”

“Thus the decision of the court of appeal affirming the decision of the tribunal ought to be set aside.

“What is the effect of a ballot paper not having the marks by the electoral commission?

“A ballot paper that does not bear INEC mark is not invalid by all purposes.

“Finally, the lower court wrongly misconstrued its evaluation of the ballot papers. This amounts to perversion. Accordingly, all the ballot papers are restored to Governor Yusuf,” he added.

For Dauda Lawal of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Court ruled that he is the validly elected Governor of Zamfara state.

The court’s five-member panel overturned the judgment of the Court of Appeal which declared the State’s gubernatorial election inconclusive.

It further described the judgment of the appellate court as “perverse,” and ruled in favour of the appeal filed by Lawal and the PDP.

Recall that in March 2023, INEC declared Lawal as the winner of the Zamfara governorship election with 377,726 votes.

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Bello Matawalle, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who polled 311,976 votes, challenged the outcome of the poll.

Matawalle, now Minister of State for Defence, had accused INEC of subverting his victory at the poll by failing to include the results of some wards.

The Tribunal, in September 2023, held that the petition was devoid of merit and a N500,000 fine was awarded against the petitioners.

In November 2023, the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja declared the Zamfara governorship election inconclusive.

The three-member panel of the appellate court unanimously annulled the victory of Lawal and ordered INEC to hold a fresh election in three Local Government Areas.

The Local Governments are Maradun, Birnin-Magaji and Bukyun.

Caleb Mutfwang of the PDP was also affirmed Governor of Plateau State in today’s ruling.

The apex court led by Emmanuel Agim, held that “the whole case is a clear abuse of court process.”

It faulted the appellate court for voiding Mutfwang’s election.

The court further held that the Tribunal and Court of Appeal cannot determine the issue of validity of a party’s candidate.

Agim held that matters of the National Executive Council, and administration of a political party, are internal affairs of the party and cannot be entertained by the lower courts.

“The election and return of the appellant as governor of Plateau state is hereby restored,” the court held.

The Appeal Court had in a unanimous decision in November ruled that Muftwang was not sponsored by his Party.

The court held that Nentawe Yilwada of the All Progressives Congress won the March 18, 2023 governorship election and therefore upheld his appeal.

According to the result declared by INEC, Mutfwang scored 525,299 votes to beat Yilwada who polled 481,370 votes.

The Plateau Tribunal had earlier affirmed Muftwang’s victory prompting Yilwada to file an appeal at the appellate court.

Francis Nwifuru

The Supreme Court also affirmed the election of Fran­cis Nwifuru as Ebonyi State Governor.

Ifeanyi Odii of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had challenged the election of Nwifuru on the grounds of electoral malpractice.

He also said Nwifuru was not properly sponsored by his political party for the March 2023 election.

Delivering judgment on Friday, Tijani Abubakar, who led a five-member panel of the court, held that “the appeal” was always going “to fall like a pack of cards.”

“It is unmeritorious and is dismissed,” the court ruled.

In March 2023, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Nwifuru, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), as winner of the Ebonyi governorship election after he polled 199, 131 votes.

Ifeanyi Odii of the PDP secured 80,191 votes.

Bernard Odoh, the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), polled a distant third with 52, 189 votes.

Dissatisfied with the outcome of the election, Odii and Odoh had approached the tribunal, asking it to nullify Nwifuru’s victory and declare them winner.

They noted that Nwifuru was not a valid member of the APC at the time he contested the election.

The apex court also affirmed the election of Bassey Otu as the Governor of Cross River State.

It dismissed the appeal filed by Sandy Onor, candidate of the PDP.

Helen Ogunwumiju, who read the lead judgment, held that the “appeal is without merit, a waste of judicial time and resources”.

Recall that in March 2023, Otu, candidate of the APC, was announced as the winner of the governorship election after he scored 258,619 votes.

Onor who came second behind Otu scored 179,636 votes.

Dissatisfied with the outcome of the election, Onor approached the Tribunal with a three-point petition.

Onor had argued that Peter Odey, Otu’s deputy, was still a member of the PDP when he was nominated by the APC.

He added that Otu did not possess the prerequisite qualifications to contest the election.

In September 2023, the Tribunal dismissed the petition filed by Onor while the court of appeal in November affirmed the election of Otu as the Governor of Cross River.

Similarly, the Supreme Court affirmed the election of the Governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed.

APC candidate, Sadique Abubakar’s efforts at the two lower courts to unseat Mohammed were not successful.

Abubakar had alleged massive non-compliance with the Electoral Act during the poll at the two courts.

His petition at the Tribunal and appeal at the appellate court were dismissed for lack of merit.

The two courts held that he did not prove his allegations beyond a reasonable doubt.

Reading the lead judgment today, Justice Ibrahim Saulawa resolved all issues against the appellant and held that the appeal was devoid of merit.

Reacting via X, the Governor dedicated the victory to the people of the state and his Party, PDP.

“In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful, I offer all praises to Allah for our victory. This triumph belongs to the people of Bauchi State and our esteemed party, the @OfficialPDPNig

“On behalf of my family and myself, I express deep gratitude to all our stakeholders who joined us in this journey, particularly our religious and faith leaders, political associates, friends, and well-wishers. This victory reaffirms that the good work in Bauchi State must go on. #GreaterBauchi,” he posted.