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Supreme Court to Decide Fate Of Eight Governors Today

Barring unforeseen circumstances, the Supreme Court will on Friday, deliver judgment in the appeals challenging the election of eight state governors in the March 18, 2023 governorship elections.

The state governors, whose fate will be decided by the Supreme Court are that of Kano, Abba Kabir Yusuf; Bauchi, Bala Mohammed;  Plateau, Caleb Mutfwang; Ebonyi, Francis Nwifuru; Cross River, Bassey Otu; Lagos, Babajide Sanwo-Olu; Zamfara state, Dauda Lawal; and Abia, Alex Otti.

Governor Abba Yusuf

The Supreme Court, on 21st December reserved judgment in an appeal brought before it by Governor Abba Yusuf of Kano state, challenging the decision of the Court of Appeal, Abuja, which sacked him from office.

After hearing the submissions of counsel in the matter and the processes filed had been adopted, the five-member panel of the apex court led by Justice Inyang John Okoro reserved judgment.

The Court of Appeal had, on November 17, in a unanimous judgment of a three-member panel, upheld the decision of the Kano State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal which sacked Governor Yusuf of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) and declared the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr. Nasiru Gawuna, winner of the March 18 poll.

The appellate court dismissed the appeal filed by Governor Yusuf based on his membership status in the NNPP.

However, the judgment had elicited confusion when on Tuesday, November 21, the Certified True Copy (CTC) of the court judgment surfaced with contradictions as the CTC showed that all the issues were resolved in favour of Governor Yusuf.

The Court of Appeal acknowledged a clerical error in the CTC of its judgment and promised correction.

Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), representing the governor in the matter, had urged the Supreme Court to set aside the decision of the Appeal Court and that of the Tribunal.

Olanipekun urged the apex court to determine whether or not, INEC’s guidelines will be a basis for nullifying the election victory of his candidate who won the election by a margin of over 100,000.

He argued that, this is the first time in the annals of electoral jurisprudence where an election was nullified on the grounds that ballot papers were not signed or stamped at the back, adding that, INEC guidelines does not envisage that the courts would nullify an election on the basis of INEC purportedly failing to stamp ballot papers on the back.

The governor’s legal team maintained that its client’s membership of the NNPP is a pre-election matter and the  appellate court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter

“The judgement of the lower courts is very unfair to the appellant and we urge your lordships to upturn it,” Olanipekun submitted.

In his submissions, counsel to the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Akin Olujimi(SAN) maintained that the Electoral Act mandates INEC’s presiding officers to sign the back of ballot papers after the conclusion of the election.

On the issue of party membership, he argued that the  NNPP membership register did not show the name of Abba Yusuf on it.

Counsel for INEC, Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN) supported the arguments of Olanipekun and further  submitted that the decisions of the lower courts were flawed.

Mahmoud said the testimony of a subpoenaed witness(PW32) which the tribunal relied on to sack Abba Yusuf,  were not front-loaded along with the petition at the tribunal contrary to the Electoral Act.

He admitted that the ballot papers were issued by INEC and told the court that, it was not the duty of a voter to check if ballot papers were signed or not, but that of  the party agents.

He said INEC’s contention is that the tribunal went far beyond its powers in vetting each of the ballot papers in their chambers and not in open court and  contended that membership is clearly an internal affairs of a political party and Abba Yusuf’s name was forwarded to INEC prior to the election while his party membership card was tendered in evidence at the tribunal.

Counsel for the NNPP, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) said ballot papers were actually cast at the polling units but the APC legal team did not specify the polling units affected at the Tribunal in line with rules of court.

Justice Okoro asked him what should be the effect going forward, when ballot papers that are issued by INEC are not stamped by its officials.

“Who should suffer? Is it the guy that voted, INEC or the person voted for?” Okoro asked.

Awomolo said ballot papers not signed ought not to affect the validity of an election and submitted that, “election is the decision of the people”,  insisting that the Tribunal was wrong to recount the ballots in its chambers.

The NNPP counsel added that not a single witness told the Tribunal that ballot papers were not stamped and urged the apex court to restore the 165,165 cancelled votes of Abba Yusuf and affirm his election.

Governor Bala Muhammed, Bauchi state

In the same vein, the Supreme Court also reserved judgment in the appeal filed by the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Sadique Abubakar, against the judgment of the Bauchi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal which upheld Bala Mohammed’s election.

The Appeal Court sitting in Abuja had on November 17 dismissed the case which found that Governor Bala Mohammed of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won the governorship election in Bauchi state.

The legal team of the APC candidate had urged the appeal court to declare Mohammed’s election null and void because several electoral documents used during the poll were not properly filled.

But Mohammed’s lawyers maintained that the assertions were untrue given the findings of the Tribunal.

The appeal court went on to hold that the APC candidate failed to provide credible evidence and testimony to buttress his allegations regarding electoral malpractice and non-compliance to relevant laws and consequently  dismissed the appeal.

On Thursday, the APC candidate’s lawyer, Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN), told the apex court to set aside judgement, arguing that the tribunal failed to make pronouncement on the invalid electoral documents tendered as evidence before it.

INEC had, through its counsel, told the apex court that the tribunal only found blank spaces in some of the electoral forms and not on all the forms and that there was no evidence of forms that were improperly filled at the tribunal.

Counsel for the governor, Chief Chris Uche (SAN) asked the five-man panel of the apex court chaired by Justice Inyang Okoro to dismiss the “needless appeal”.

Uche said the appellants never brought any witnesses to speak to the electoral documents tendered at the tribunal.

“They did not have materials to support their case,” Uche argued and asked the court to dismiss the appeal.

After hearing the parties, the Supreme Court reserved judgment and announced today for the judgement.

The Appeal Court sitting in Abuja had, in a judgement affirmed the election of Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State in the March 18, 2023 governorship election held in the state.

The Appeal Court sitting in Abuja had, in a judgement affirmed the election of Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State in the March 18, 2023 governorship election held in the state.

The appeal was filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate, Sadique Abubakar, following the judgment of the Bauchi state Governorship election petition tribunal which upheld Mohammed’s victory.

The three-member panel of justices of the appellate court unanimously agreed that the appellant failed to adduce reason why Mohammed’s election should be nullified on the ground that, the forms and booklets used in the election were not properly filled.

The court also held that the appellant failed to state the polling units involved in the said allegations and that he was unable to state what was missing in the forms.

It further held that the appellant was unable to prove how the said improperly filled forms substantially affected the results of the election.

On the plea that there was massive non-compliance with the electoral laws in the conduct of the election, the court held that the appellant again could not prove this, as some of the witnesses who testified did not vote on election day and those who voted, only spoke based on what they saw in their polling units alone.

On the issue of the alleged unprofessional conduct of INEC officials, the court held the same views as the tribunal, saying it was never part of the plea by the appellant at the lower court and that it was not pleaded and could not be argued.

The court noted that the appellant, unfortunately, could not prove this and added that, the least the appellant could have done was to present a genuine result along with the alleged falsified one.

Governor Caleb Muftwang, Plateau state

On January 9, 2024, the Supreme Court heard the appeal by the Plateau State governor, Caleb Mutfwang of the PDP seeking to set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal which nullified his election.

A five-member panel of Justices of the apex court, led by Justice John Inyang Okoro, after parties adopted their written addresses in the matter, reserved judgment to a date that will be communicated to them on, or before January 16, when the matter will lapse.

Governor Mutfwang is praying the Supreme Court to dismiss the judgement of the Court of Appeal delivered on November 19, last year which voided his election on grounds of non-qualification.

The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja had, in a unanimous judgment,  sacked governor Mutfwang who had 525,299 votes while the candidate of the APC, Nentawe Goshwe, polled 481,370 votes in the March 18 governorship election in the state.

Goshwe challenged the victory of Mutfwang at the Plateau State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal claiming that the governor was not validly nominated and sponsored by his party and that, there was non-compliance with the Electoral Act in the conduct of the election.

A three-member panel of the tribunal headed by Justice R. Irele-Ifijeh dismissed the petition for lacking in merit.

Displeased with the judgment, the APC’s candidate appealed the tribunal judgment.

In its judgment, the three-member panel of the Court of Appeal led by Justice Elfrieda Williams-Dawodu, citing Section 177 of the Constitution, held that the governor was not validly sponsored by the PDP for the election.

She held that the party violated a court order directing it to conduct a valid congress in the 17 local government areas of the state.

She said, there was no evidence that the PDP complied with a subsisting High Court order which had directed it to conduct a valid party congress prior to its sponsorship of the governorship and other candidates.

The court held that the issue of qualification is both a pre-election and a post-election matter contrary to the position of the tribunal which held that the appellant lacked the locus to contest the validity of the respondent.

The court also noted that under Section 134 of the Electoral Act, it is the sole right of a political party to sponsor its candidate having met the requirements to do so and  ordered INEC to retrieve the Certificate of Return issued to the governor and issue a fresh certificate  to Goshwe.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos state

The apex Court also reserved its judgement on two separate appeals seeking to nullify the election of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State.

The Supreme Court panel of Justices okayed the two cases for judgement, after all the parties  in the appeals adopted their briefs of argument.

The appeals were filed by candidates of the Labour Party (LP) and the PDP in the governorship election that held in the state on March 18, Mr. Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour and Abdulazeez Adediran (Jandor), respectively.

The apex court reserved the judgement to a date that would be communicated to all the parties in the matter.

The Appellants are praying the apex court to nullify the declaration of Sanwo-Olu of the ruling APC as the valid winner of the governorship election.

Specifically, the LP and its governorship candidate, Rhodes-Vivour, in the notice of appeal they filed on November 26, urged the court to, among other things, determine, whether Sanwo-Olu was qualified to contest the election considering that his deputy and running late, Obafemi Hamzat, has dual citizenship.

The Appellants told the court that the Lagos State deputy governor took the citizenship of the United States of America (USA) and argued that since the deputy governor was constitutionally ineligible to contest the election, it invalidated Sanwo-Olu’s candidacy.

However, INEC, Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, as well as the APC, urged the apex court to dismiss the appeal for want of competence.

Chief Wole Olanipekun, (SAN), who represented both Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Hamzat, noted that both the Lagos State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal and the Court of Appeal, unanimously dismissed the petition by the LP and its candidate as lacking in merit.

He accused the Appellants of deliberately attempting to change the case they presented before the two lower courts.

According to him, whereas the Appellants, at the lower court, contended that the deputy governor renounced his Nigerian citizenship, Olanipekun, said the case before the apex court was changed to the alleged acquisition of US citizenship by the 3rd Respondent (Hamzat).

All the Respondents argued that the case the Appellants presented before the Supreme Court was at variance with what was pleaded and decided by both the tribunal and the appellate court.

The Respondents told the court that the case of the LP and its candidate was also dismissed on the premise that they failed to prove the allegations in their petition, having produced incompetent witnesses and filed ineffective processes and  urged the court to dismiss the appeal and uphold the concurrent findings of the two lower courts on the matter.

Similarly, the PDP and its candidate, Adediran, in their own appeal, alleged that they were denied fair hearing by both the tribunal and the Court of Appeal.

The Appellants, through their lawyer, Mr. Clement Onwenwunor (SAN), maintained that their case was not heard and determined on its merit by the tribunal.

Onwenwunor told the apex court that the case of his clients was that the deputy governor tendered a forged West African Examination Council (WAEC) certificate to INEC, in aid of his qualification to contest the election.

He added that a master list that WAEC was subpoenaed to produce before the tribunal, showed that the name on the certificate the deputy governor tendered to INEC was different.

The Appellants argued that such discrepancy was weighty enough to affect the eligibility of the 2nd and 3rd Respondents to participate in the gubernatorial contest.

While all the Respondents asked the court to dismiss the suit for lack of jurisdiction, they further argued that the appeal was seeking to invoke the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under section 22 of its Act, to review evidence that was not considered by the lower courts.

More so, the APC, through its lawyer, Mr. Muiz Banire (SAN), argued that the appeal raised pre-election issues that have not only become statute barred but which they also lack the locus standi to litigate on.

After the apex court panel heard the submissions of counsel to all the parties, it reserved the appeal for judgement, even as it noted that the statutory period for the determination of the case would elapse on January 12.

Ebonyi state’s Governor Francis Nwifuru

The Supreme Court had on Tuesday reserved judgement in the Ebonyi State governorship election appeal.

Last November, the Court of Appeal in Lagos had affirmed the election of APC’s Fran­cis Nwifuru as the duly elected governor of Ebonyi State in the March 18, 2023 governorship election.

The three-member panel of the appellate court presided over by Justice Jummai Sankey, in its unanimous judgment, dismissed the appeal filed by PDP’s Chukwuma Odii and upheld the earlier verdict of the Tribunal but the PDP candidate approached the apex court to seek redress.

Governor Dauda Lawal, Zamfara state 

In November last year, the Appeal Court nullified the election of Zamfara State Governor, Dauda Lawal.

Lawal, of the main opposition PDP, was declared the winner of the March 18 governorship election. In a shocking victory that dislodged then-incumbent Bello Matawalle of the APC, he polled a total of 377,726 votes. Matawalle scored 311,976 votes.

The PDP candidate, now serving as the Minister of State for Defence, had accused INEC of subverting his victory at the poll by failing to include the results of some ward areas.

In an earlier ruling on September 18, the Zamfara state Election Petition Tribunal held that the petition was devoid of merit. While upholding Lawal’s victory, the tribunal awarded  a fine of N500,000  against the petitioners.

An unsatisfied Matawalle, took the matter to the Court of Appeal in Abuja, to challenge the decision of the lower court.

Respite came for Matawalle on as the three-member panel of the Court of Appeal led by Justice Oyebisi Folayemi, nullified the return of Governor Lawal as the winner of the governorship poll and ordered INEC to conduct a fresh election in three local government areas of the state, where elections had not been held previously or where results from various polling units were not counted.

But the governor proceeded to the apex court to seek redress.

 Governor Bassey Otu, Cross River state

The apex court on Thursday, heard the appeal challenging  the election of Bassey Otu of the APC as the governor of Cross River state and reserved judgment till Friday after parties adopted their briefs in the matter.

The Court of Appeal in Lagos had, in November last year, upheld the judgement of the state governorship election petition Tribunal which affirmed the election of Bassey Otu of the APC as the governor of Cross River State.

The court dismissed the appeal filed by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Sandy Onor to challenge the decision of the tribunal delivered on 26 September.

The court resolved all the 20 issues raised in the appeal in favour of Otu and against Onor and his party.

The appellate court held that, all the issues canvassed by the appellants, were pre-election matters that should have been litigated at the Federal High Court within 14 days of their happening.

The court ruled that the tribunal was right to decline jurisdiction to determine the issue of the deputy governor, Peter Odey’s membership of a political party. The issue, according to the court, is a pre-election matter, therefore, was statute-barred.

The court also agreed with the tribunal that the appellants did not prove the alleged conflict in the names of the secondary school attended by Otu and ruled that the tribunal was right to reject the testimonies of three petitioners’ witnesses.

The court dismissed the appeal for lacking in merit and affirmed Otu and Odey, as the duly elected governor and deputy governor of Cross River State, respectively.

Abia state’s Governor, Alex Otti

The Supreme Court will also on Friday deliver judgment in the appeals brought by the PDP, the APC and their governorship candidates against the election of Governor Alex Otti of Abia State.

The Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos had, in a unanimous decision in December last year, upheld the victory of Otti at the March 18, 2023 governorship election in Abia state, saying that it conformed with the provisions of the Electoral Act and dismissed the petitions brought by the appellants challenging Otti’s election for lacking in merit.

PDP and its candidate, Okey Ahiwe as well as the Governorship Candidate of the APC, Chief Ikechi Emenike and his party had, in their appeals asked the apex court to set aside the judgement of the lower courts that affirmed the election of Otti of the Labour Party (LP) as Abia state governor.

When the appeal was called on Wednesday Uche Ihediuwa (SAN), representing the PDP  alleged that Ahiwe was short-changed with over 84,000 votes during the collation of the governorship election results.

The lawyer alleged that the agent of the PDP was chased away at the collation center and as such, was not obliged a copy of the results as required by law.

He claimed that his client had to approach the APC before it could access results sheets and discovered the alleged malpractices.

However, Otti, represented by Abiodun John Owonikoko (SAN), asked the apex court to dismiss the appeal for want of merit.

Owonikoko informed the court that Otti scored over 174,000 votes at the March 18, 2023 governorship election to emerge victorious adding that even if the purported 84,000  short-changed votes were added to PDP, the appellants would still not win.

He said, a purported result sheet produced by the PDP before the State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal was rejected because it could not be read by the witness of the party.

It would be be recalled that Otti of the LP  was declared the winner of the governorship election in the Abia State by INEC on March 22, 2023, with Ahiwe of the PDP coming second in the election.

Ahiwe and the governorship candidate of the APC, Ikechi Emenike, separately challenged Otti’s victory at the  Abia State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, which, in its judgment delivered on October 6, 2023 dismissed their petitions and affirmed Otti’s election.

The judgment of the tribunal was later affirmed by the Court of Appeal, which held that issues of political party membership is a pre-election matter, which also falls within the jurisdiction of the political party.

The appellate court further said since Otti joined the Labour Party, won its primary election and his name was submitted to INEC, he was qualified to contest the election.

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Politics

Oyebanji Names Four New Permanent Secretaries

In the bid to further position the state civil service for optimal service delivery, Ekiti State Governor, Mr Biodun Oyebanji has approved the appointment of four new Permanent Secretaries to fill available vacancies in the State Civil Service.

The new Permanent Secretaries emerged as a result of their brilliant performance in the last examination and interview conducted for candidates from both the State and Local Government service on June 27, 2023 and October 18, 2023 respectively, in line with the merit- based appointment policy of the administration.

The Special Adviser (Media) to the Governor, Yinka Oyebode who announced the appointment in settlement on Friday listed the new permanent secretaries to include:

1. Mrs Janet Funke Ajibola
2. ⁠Mr Michael Sunday Boluwade
3. ⁠Mr Foluso Ebenezer Akinwumi
4. ⁠Mr Rotimi Gabriel Akomolede

“The date for their inauguration would be announced later.

“Governor Oyebanji, while congratulating the new permanent secretaries, urges them to be prepared to deploy their competence and experiences in the development of the state.”

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Imo electoral commission schedules September for local govt election

Ahead of the forthcoming local government elections slated for September 21 across the 27 LGAs in the state, the Imo State Independent Electoral Commission (ISIEC) has assured the residents of Imo State of a free, fair, and peaceful exercise.

The Chairman of the Commission, Charles Ejiogu, gave the assurance while addressing participants during a stakeholders’ meeting on how to achieve a credible election.

Ejiogu said the forthcoming poll will be the fifth time such an exercise has taken place in the state since the re-enthronement of democratic governance in 1999, with previous elections held in 1999, 2004, 2010, and 2018.

The ISIEC boss, while highlighting the importance of the exercise, maintained that the third tier of government remains the bedrock for even development in rural areas and the only source of deepening democratic elements at the grassroots.

He stated that following the law establishing the Commission in 2000, as amended in Law No. 14, ISIEC is empowered with the responsibilities of conducting and supervising free, transparent, and credible local government council elections in the state.

“To this end, ISIEC has scheduled to conduct the much-expected council elections in the 305 Registration Areas/Wards and in all the 4,758 polling units in the 27 Local Government Area Councils of Imo State on Saturday, September 21, 2024.

“Therefore, the Commission is taking this opportunity to assure all critical stakeholders of its preparedness to perform its constitutional duty.

“Today’s stakeholders’ meeting is to release election guidelines and a timetable as part of the activities that will ultimately usher in the emergence of 27 democratically elected Council Chairmen, their Deputies, and 305 Councilors,” he said.

The ISIEC Chairman added that arrangements for the recruitment of ad-hoc personnel are in top gear and that it will include both field and internal ad-hoc personnel.

Talking about security, he stated that the Commission is not oblivious to the imperatives of putting in place water-tight security. He mentioned that they are in touch with heads of security agencies to achieve a hitch-free exercise and will stop at nothing in doing just that, maintaining that adequate logistics and ground power will be mounted as it is key to the successful conduct of the forthcoming council polls.

Chief Ejiogu further emphasized the Commission’s ongoing sensitization and mobilization efforts with critical stakeholders, informing that meetings with traditional rulers, presidents general, political leaders, and other relevant bodies are still on course.

“We are also liaising with other democratic institutions such as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and we are satisfied with their level of support so far, even as we look forward to more of such support. The security agencies have also assured us of their readiness to render necessary assistance. The voluntary agencies are not left out in this regard, and we cannot take any of them for granted,” he informed.

He also noted the importance of the media in the forthcoming exercise, emphasizing that the fourth estate of the realm remains sacrosanct stakeholders and established strategic partners in progress.

In a similar vein, the ISIEC boss used the moment to commend the governor for creating the opportunity for the exercise to see the light of day, assuring that he would deliver on the task given to him.

Those present at the meeting included heads of security agencies, sole administrators of the 27 LGAs in the state, political leaders, traditional rulers, presidents general, civil society organizations, market women, youth groups, and religious leaders.

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Ododo signs anti-corruption agency, electricity regulatory commission bills into law

The Kogi State Governor, Ahmed Usman Ododo, Thursday, signed many bills into Law at the Executive Chambers of the Kogi State Government House.

In his remarks shortly after signing the bills into law, Governor Ododo commended the State House of Assembly for their patriotism and dedication, referring to the Bills as “People oriented bills”.

According to the Governor, the newly signed Anti Corruption Agency Law will strengthen the capacity of the state to prevent corruption as well as investigate and prosecute corruption cases.

“We have given legal teeth to the Agency to be able to bite corruption. This is a clear statement by my administration that we will attack corrupt practices and make it impossible for corruption to thrive.

“All lovers of development will frown at corruption. We won’t allow corrupt practices. I will give all necessary support to the agency to perform its duties judiciously,” he said.

Ododo thanked President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for making it possible for states to generate, transmit and distribute electricity, saying this would help to finally resolve the power challenge in the nation.

“Mr President has finally discovered the path to permanently resolve the power crisis in Nigeria. Opening up the industry will widen the operational field and deliver more megawatts to the national grid.

“As a State, we are taking full advantage of this opening made possible by the bold policies of Mr President and I can assure you that Kogi is ready to play on the big State as far as the issue of power is concerned.”

The Governor said the Kogi State Scholarship Law was aimed at helping indigent students attain their dreams, saying his administration would continue to prioritize education.

“We have continued to prioritize education because we are convinced that education is the bulwark of development. As a student, I knew what I went through to be educated. Being on this seat has offered me the opportunity to support our students to excel in their educational career.

“I also use this opportunity to congratulate Nigerians on the Students Loan Scheme of Mr. President. We have a smart President who is determined to protect the poor and the weak. With him, it is obvious that our nation shall prosper,” he said.

Earlier, the Speaker of the Kogi State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon Aliyu  Umar Yusuf, said the Assembly did a thorough job and even consulted experts to ensure that when passed, the laws can stand the test of time.

He said the State House of Assembly was committed to ensuring purposeful legislation for the development of the State.

The ceremony was attended by members of the State House of Assembly and other top Government officials.

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