Supreme Court reserves judgment in Kano governorship legal battle


After six hours of fierce legal fireworks, the Supreme Court on Thursday in Abuja reserved judgment in the Kano State Governorship legal battle.

At the centre of the legal battle are the New Nigeria Peoples Party NNPP and the All Progressives Congress APC and their governorship candidates Kabir Yusuf and Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna,

At Thursday’s proceedings, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN asked the Supreme Court to set aside the decision of the Appeal Court and the Tribunal.

Olanipekun specifically pleaded with the five-man Apex Court panel headed by Justice John Inyang Okoro to determine whether or not, the guidelines of INEC would be a basis for nullifying the election victory of a candidate who won the election by a margin of over 100,000.

The senior lawyer argued that this is the first time in the annals of electoral jurisprudence that an election was nullified on grounds that ballot papers were not signed or stamped at the back.

He said INEC guidelines do not envisage that the courts would nullify an election based on INEC’s purported failure 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 that the Court of Appeal lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter

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

“Nobody raised the legality or illegality of the ballots. They tendered the ballot from the bar. Nobody spoke to it,” Olanipekun replied.

“The ballot papers were legal because they were issued by INEC officials.

But in a counter-argument, the All Progressives Congress (APC) counsel, Chief Akin Olujimi maintained that the Electoral Act mandates INEC presiding officers to sign the back of ballot papers after the conclusion of the election to make them legal and lawful

Olujinmi said the findings of the tribunal were simply that the ballot papers were not signed at the back and not dated and proceeded to cancel the election where the ballots were used.

He said electoral irregularities are manifest on the disputed ballot papers.

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

Counsel for INEC Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, supported the arguments of Olanipekun.

He 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 was not front-loaded along with the petition at the tribunal contrary to the Electoral Act.

“They were our ballot papers issued by INEC,” Mahmoud said, 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.

Mahmoud contended that membership of a political party is clearly an internal affair of a political party and Abba Yusuf’s name was forwarded to INEC before 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 the rules of the court.

Awomolo said ballot papers not signed ought not to affect the validity of an election.

“My submission is that the election is the decision of the people. 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.

He urged the Apex Court to restore the 165,165 cancelled votes of Abba Yusuf and affirm his election.

After taking arguments from parties, Justice Okoro reserved judgment on the governor’s appeal.

The tribunal had in September nullified Yusuf’s election, citing over 160,000 invalid votes due to missing signatures and stamps on the ballot papers.

The APC had challenged the election outcome at the Tribunal, alleging electoral malpractice.

Yusuf, however, appealed the tribunal’s decision to the Court of Appeal.

But the Court of Appeal in Abuja dismissed the appeal filed by the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) candidate against the judgment of the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal which declared the All Progressive Congress (APC) flag bearer, Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna, as the winner of the state’s governorship poll held on March 18.

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