Monday, August 31, 2020 11:56 am
The Supreme Court sitting in Abuja on Monday finally laid to rest, months of legal tussle over the November 16th 2019 Kogi State Governorship election. The Apex court in a unanimous decision dismissed the case of Engr. Musa Wada of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) against the governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello of the All Progressive Congress (APC) saying the “Appeal lacks any scitilla of merit, it is dismissed”.
The seven man panel of justices held that the election substantially met all expectations of the law. The court therefore upheld the victory of governor Yahaya Bello as winner of the election.
Long walk to justice
For the people of Kogi and the winning party, it has been a long walk to justice. The acrimony that attended the November 16th Governorship election landed many of the political parties in court.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC had declared Bello, the APC candidate winner of the election. He polled some 406,000 votes to beat his closest rival Wada of the PDP who polled about 189,000 votes. Natasha came a distant third with about 12,000 votes.
Four of the 22 political parties that fielded candidates in the election filed complaints at the Governorship election petitions tribunal. The four candidates and their parties are Musa Wada of the People’s Democratic Party, Natasha Akpoti of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, Democratic People’s Party, DPP and Action People’s Party, APP.
Except for the DPP which complained of illegal exclusion of it’s candidate from the ballot, the other parties alleged widespread violence, rigging and gross violations of the law by the INEC and the APC. The petitioners in their separate petitions urged the tribunal to void Bello’s victory and called for a fresh poll.
Wada’s case generated much interest than the others. Wada who came second in the election called for forensic examination of the election materials and 32 witnesses to support his allegation of rigging against Bello. His lawyer Jubril Okutekpa argued that his client had the highest number of valid votes and urged the tribunal to declare him winner.
Joseph Daudu the defendants lawyer called one witness and urged the tribunal to dismiss the cases as lacking in evidence. He argued that Bello’s reelection met all the expectations of the law.
The tribunal however upheld Bello’s reelection. One after the other the Justice Kashim Kaigama led tribunal dismissed all the petitions and awarded damages against each of them.
In it’s ruling on Wada’s petition on Saturday, 23rd May in Abuja, there was however, a split or minority judgement of 2 to 1 which annulled the election. Justice Ohimai Ovbiagele nullified the election in 7 local governments and called for fresh election within three months.
Encouraged by the minority judgement, the PDP candidate proceeded on appeal. Natasha and candidates of the DPP and APP also took their respective cases to the Appeal Court.
The Justice Adamu Jauro led appeal also dismissed the petitions and upheld decision of the tribunal. Justice Haruna Tsanami who read the decision of the appeal panel held that the PDP only dumped documents on the court without proving it’s allegation of over voting and rigging.
Wada then approached the Apex court with his grievances urging it to declare him winner of the election. Now that his fate has been sealed, Bello can heave a sigh of relief from the distractions the court cases constituted.