The Appeal Court will rule on validity of the judgement of the election tribunal which adjudged the APC winner of the 18 March election.
The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, will deliver, on Friday, judgement on the appeal filed by the New Nigeria People Party (NNPP) challenging the verdict of the Kano State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal that sacked Governor Abba Kabir.
The lower tribunal also declared the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Nasir Gawuna, as the lawfully elected candidate in the 18 March election.
The Court of Appeal announced the judgement date in a notice to lawyers representing the parties to the case on Thursday.
The announcement came 10 days after the court heard the NNPP’s appeal, listening to lawyers’ arguments on behalf of their clients.
The three-member panel of judges in the tribunal led by Oluyemi Asadebay, ruled on 20 September, in favour of the APC candidate. The judgement was preceeded by days of suspense, and spiritual supplications, by both members of the NNPP and APC for a favourable outcome of the case.
On Thursday, the spokesperson for the Kano State government, Halilu Dantiye, advised residents in a statement to remain calm and avoid acts capable of causing a breach of peace as the Appeal Court delivers judgment.
Mr Dantiye said the advice became necessary as some may take advantage of the situation cause trouble.
The spokesperson called on security agencies to double their efforts in ensuring that law and order are maintained as well as ensure full protection of the lives and properties of the citizens in the state.
The crux of the matter
After the 18 March election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared that the NNPP polled 1,019,602 votes against the APC’s 890,705 to emerge victorious.
But the tribunal invalidated over 165,663 ballots thumbprinted in favour of NNPP. The court ruled that the votes were deducted because the ballot papers with which they were cast were not stamped or signed. This rendered the votes invalid, according to the tribunal.
The tribunal said the petitioner was able to prove the allegation of the invalidity of some of the votes on the grounds that the election was not in compliance with the provision of the Electoral Act, 2022.
Therefore, the tribunal ordered that the invalid votes be expunged from Mr Yusuf’s scores.
Displeased with the tribunal’s judgement, Mr Yusuf in a notice of appeal dated 2 October 2023, argued that the tribunal erred when it relied on sections 71 and 63 of the Electoral Act, 2022 to invalidate the 165,616 ballot papers returned in his favour.
The governor also said the respondent, (the APC) “did not plead with the polling units where the alleged invalid papers ballot papers were used and the tribunal was therefore wrong to accede to cancel the lawful votes”.
There was no witness presented by the first respondent to testify as to the use of any of the ballot papers in any polling unit. NNPP argued that the tribunal did not demonstrate in its judgement how it arrived at its decision on 165,616 invalid votes against the appellant.
The governor also argued in ground 20, that the tribunal misdirected itself when it went out of the judicial duties by constituting itself into witnesses, and investigators and sat as judges.
APC and NNPP expects favourable judgements
Following the tribunal judgement on 20 September, the NNPP has relentlessly carried out social and conventional media campaigns within and outside Kano State, calling for ‘justice’, and intervention for its candidate at the Appeal Court.
The campaign climaxed last week after human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, during an interview on Channels Television, suggested the election petition tribunal was wrong.
“You cannot punish voters for the errors of INEC. That was what recently happened in Kano, where (over) 65,000 votes were said to have not been marked by INEC officials.
“We are asking our judges to embrace justice, substantial justice, in a way that you cannot punish voters for the errors of INEC. You cannot challenge the validity of the ballot papers. So, I think these are the areas where our judges will have to go back to the drawing table,” Mr Falana said.
The statement by the senior lawyer was welcomed and widely distributed by the NNPP to its members across the state as an indication that the appeal court will rule in its favour.
On their part, APC members were pushing a campaign tagged, “Gawuna has arrived,” on social media. The campaign suggests that the NNPP was going to lose its appeal on Friday.
The expected decision of the appeal court has generated similar attention as that of the tribunal from residents of the state and other political watchers. The leaders of the contending parties in the state, Rabiu Kwankwaso of the NNPP and Abdullahi Ganduje of the APC, who ironically were in government ad the state’s governor and deputy governor between 2011 and 2015, now are perhaps the biggest political adversaries in contemporary Nigerian politics.
Both politicians will be praying for a favourable judgement today as whoever emerges victorious today needs Kano’s teeming voters to consolidate their political base.
Today’s ruling is not the last of judicial pronouncement on the election, as the losing party after the Appeal Court ruling is constitutionally allowed to appeal to the Supreme Court, the country’s highest court with the final say on the electoral dispute.