October 4, 2023

Party faults ruling, says “it fell short of expectation”

The Supreme Court, yesterday, affirmed the re-election of Yahaya Bello as Kogi State governor. Consequently, it dismissed the appeal filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in the November 16, 2019 poll, Musa Wada, challenging the outcome of the contest.

The apex court, therefore, upheld the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division delivered on July 4, 2020. The appellate court had validated the majority decision of the Kogi State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal that returned Bello as winner.

The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Ibrahim Tanko, headed the seven-man panel that gave the verdict. The lead judgment was prepared by Justice Inyang Okoro and read by Justice Uwani Abba-Aji.

Ruling, the jury said it was satisfied that the appellate court neither denied the appellants fair hearing nor wrongfully treated their case.

The apex court further held that the appellants failed to prove “why it should disturb the concurrent findings of the two courts below.”

It maintained that the appellants, again, failed to substantiate their case, as “they adduced evidence with respect to only 24 out of the 729 polling units in the state.”

Abba-Aji ruled: “It is abundantly clear that this appeal is devoid of any scintilla of merit, and it is accordingly, dismissed.”

The ruling brings to an end the legal battle instituted by the applicants on December 14, 2019 when Wada, led by his lead counsel, Jibril Okutepa, stormed the tribunal to register their dissatisfaction with the result of the election.They had insisted that Governor Bello was not validly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the poll.

In their petition, marked EPT/KG/GOV/06/2019, the claimants had prayed the tribunal to annul the election on the ground that it was allegedly rigged and marred by violence.

According to the petitioners, the exercise was “invalid by reason of widespread electoral malpractices, violence and substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act.”

They, thereafter, urged the court to nullify the Certificate of Return issued to Bello by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and declare that Wada scored majority of votes cast at the election in fulfillment of Sections 179(2)(a) and (b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

Alternatively, they prayed for an order of court directing INEC to conduct a supplementary election in polling units where balloting was cancelled, as the “margin between the second respondent and the first petitioner was less than the registered voters in the cancelled polling units.”

REACTING, the main opposition said the ruling “fell short of the expectation of the majority of the people of Kogi State and Nigerians in general, who collectively looked up to the court to remedy the manifest injustices, manipulations, violence and killings that marred the election.”

In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, PDP said though it had accepted the verdict, but noted: “The judgment had not inspired hope in our national quest to ensure that our elections are violent-free as well as deter unpatriotic individuals who resort to violence and killing to gain access to power, as heavily witnessed in the Kogi election.”


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