The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja has dismissed the appeal filed by Kano State Governor, Abba Kabir Yusuf of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), against the judgment of the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal which declared the All Progressive Congress (APC) flagbearer, Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna, as the winner of the state’s governorship poll held on March 18.
Recall that the Independent National Electronic Electoral Commission (INEC) had announced Yusuf as the winner of the March 18, 2023 election, saying he garnered 1,019,602 votes to defeat Gawuna who got 890,705 of the votes cast.
But the APC approached the Tribunal, citing alleged electoral malpractice.
The Tribunal, agreeing with the APC, nullified Yusuf’s election, adding that over 160,000 ballot papers “were not signed or stamped by INEC”.
Yusuf’s votes were subsequently reduced to 853,939 while Ganuwa’s 890,705 votes were not affected.
The three-man panel of the Tribunal led by Justice Oluyemi Akintan Osadebay sacked Yusuf on September 20, 2023, after deducting 165,663 of his votes.
The governor then filed an appeal before the appellate court.
The APC, INEC and the NNPP also entered cross-appeals before the court, asking the appellate court to set aside the judgment.
Abba’s counsel, Wole Olanipekun SAN averred that the Tribunal’s decision against his client was not validly made.
But the APC counsel, Akin Olujimi SAN contended that the Tribunal was right to evaluate the evidence placed before in nullifying Yusuf’s election.
In its judgment on Friday, the three-man panel of the appellate court held that it can be seen that the Tribunal acted in the overall interest of justice when it allowed APC’s tendering of documents during trial because INEC released documents to the APC piecemeal in order to defeat the petition of the petitioner.
The appeal court also held that Olanipekun’s insistence that APC ought to have joined its candidate, Ganuwa, as a party at the Tribunal proceedings, was not backed by the 1999 Constitution as a candidate is entitled to be represented by his political party during litigation.
The three-man panel of the court held that every political party shall maintain the register of its voters.
The court said the appellant to his own detriment did not submit his NNPP membership registrar or even tendered his statement on oath regarding his membership of the party.
The court said the 1999 Constitution made it mandatory for a political party to have a membership register and submit the same to INEC and the Tribunal when needed.
The court added that the name of Abba is not the NNPP membership registrar.
“As rightfully found, Yusuf Abba was not a member of the NNPP at the time he was purportedly sponsored by his party and he was not qualified to contest the March Governorship Election,” the court while affirming the judgment of the Tribunal.
“If you claim to be a member of a political party, is it not logical for you to say so by yourself and not by proxy?
“Even though membership of a political party is an internal affair, a political party cannot be permitted to circumvent or breach the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
“The Tribunal was wrong not to have disqualified the appellant.
“Therefore the failure of the appellant and the NNPP to comply with the 1999 Constitution is fatal to their election.
“All issues in this appeal are dismissed and the judgment of the Tribunal is affirmed,” the court held.
Sodiq Lawal is a passionate and dedicated journalist with a knack for uncovering captivating stories in the bustling metropolis of Osun State and Nigeria at large. He has a versatile reporting style, covering a wide range of topics, from politics , campus, and social issues to arts and culture, seeking impact in all facets of the society.