February 24, 2024

Kaduna State Governor Uba Sani received some reprieve on Friday after the Supreme Court confirmed his election victory. A five-judge panel of the Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, ruled against the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidates for the results of the gubernatorial election held in the state on March 18, 2023, Concluding that Mohamed Asir’s appeal was invalid.

In a landmark judgment handed down by Justice Tijani Abubakar, the Supreme Court has ruled that the petition filed by the PDP and its candidates challenging the election of Governor Sani is incompetent.

Since the original petition is inadmissible, it is decided that no relief shall be granted to the applicant in this matter. As a result, the Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeal’s earlier judgment dismissing the case without merit.

“The appeal is frivolous, vexatious and very annoying. It therefore deserves to be dismissed and  is hereby dismissed,” Justice Abubakar said.

Recall that The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has declared that the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Governor Sani, secured a total of 730,001 votes, defeating the PDP candidate, Mr. Asilu, who secured 719,196 votes.

However, the PDP and its candidates were dissatisfied with the election results and filed a court challenge.

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The petitioners asserted that Governor Uba was not duly elected by a majority of the valid votes cast in the election, adding that the election was invalid due to acts of corruption and non-compliance with the provisions of the 2022 Electoral Act.

They alleged that the results of some polling stations were unfairly canceled and cited inconsistencies in INEC’s certification records.

Meanwhile, on September 28, the court rejected the petition on technical grounds in a 2-1 verdict, confirming Mr. Sani’s election victory.

In a majority decision, the tribunal presided over by Justice Victor Obiawi noted that the PDP and its candidates failed to file the application for preliminary hearing within the statutory deadline and deemed the petition dismissed.

Although the court dismissed the petition for failure, it held that if it were to rule on the merits, it would still direct INEC to conduct supplementary elections at 22 polling stations in the state within 90 days.

Further, the arbitral tribunal found that there was a big difference between the two leading candidates in the supplementary determination of the plaintiff’s case.

It was gathered that the difference between the votes awarded to the APC and PDP candidates was about 10,806 votes and the total number of votes cast in the areas where the election results were invalidated was only about 16,423 votes.

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It has been found that the results of the by-elections at the affected polling stations could have a significant impact on the overall outcome of the gubernatorial election.

In a judgment dated November 24, 2023, the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal upheld Governor Sani’s election victory.

The court, in a unanimous decision by a three-judge panel, dismissed the appeal by  PDP and its candidate Ashiru. In a significant judgment handed down by Justice Obietombara Daniel Kallio, the court affirmed the judgment of the tribunal.

The Court concluded that the majority decision was correct in declaring the dismissal of the PDP’s petition and its candidates.

According to the Court of Appeal, it showed the document which found that the claimants breached section 18(1) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2022 when they prematurely applied to the court to issue a pre-trial notice.

The court rejected the applicant’s argument that it had acted with “due diligence,” noting that the law requires that such applications be filed seven days after the conclusion of the parties’ arguments.

The Act points out that caution in prosecuting a matter does not equate to hasty action, and that one of the essential elements for the exercise of jurisdiction by a court is that “the case must be within the framework of due process.”

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Additionally, the court held that the affidavits of most of the witnesses who testified on behalf of the plaintiffs were invalid because they were not filed with the petition.

It concluded that the failure to file a witness statement within the 21 days required to file the petition rendered the witness incompetent.

The Court of Appeal ruled that most of the witnesses who testified for the plaintiffs testified based on hearsay.

The court stated that it was satisfied that the tribunal had properly assessed and assigned probative value to the evidence submitted by the parties. This resolves all the five issues raised in the appeal against the appellant.

In deciding the cross-appeal filed by Governor Sani, the court’s minority judgment directed INEC to conduct a fresh poll at 22 polling stations in four Local Government Areas of the state.

The court ruled that the judge who handed down the dissenting verdict relied on contradictory documents and hearsay from unreliable witnesses to declare the gubernatorial election inconclusive.

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