The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the election of Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State.
The apex court dismissed the suit of the Peoples Democratic Party candidate, Musa Wada, and Social Democratic Party candidate, Natasha Akpoti, challenging Bello’s election.
In an unanimous judgment read by Justice Uwani Abba-Aji, the Supreme Court held that the cases of the appellants were devoid of merit as they failed to prove allegations made in their separate petitions.
The Independent National Electoral Commission had declared Bello winner of the November 16, 2019 governorship election having scored majority of votes cast in the election.
However citing substantial non-compliance and other electoral malpractices, four contestants had approached the Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal to nullify the emergence of Bello as winner of the governorship poll.
The SDP and Akpoti in addition to claims of electoral irregularities that allegedly marred the election, sought for the disqualification of Bello and his party, All Progressives Congress, on grounds of alleged forgery and falsehood by the Deputy Governor, Edward Onoja.
Onoja was accused of giving false information of a fundamental nature as well as forging documents attached to his form CF 001 submitted to INEC in aid of his qualification for the position of deputy governor.
However both election tribunal and the Court of Appeal had in their concurrent decisions dismissed the appeal for lacking in merit, forcing the appellants to approach the apex court to set aside the concurrent judgments that returned Bello as Governor.
The apex court in its judgment held that “there was no reason to interfere with the judgments of the court of appeal and tribunal”.
According to the apex court justices, the appellants did not provide particulars of forgery to support claim of forgery against the deputy governor.
It further held that there was no evidence of rigging nor evidence that the respondents connived among themselves to rig the election.
On the issue of exclusion, Justice Abba-Aji noted that the appellants blew hot and cold at the same time when they in one breath said the logo of the SDP was not on the result sheet, while in another said, it was written in long hand.
The Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal and the Court of Appeal had in concurrent judgments affirmed Bello’s re-election on the grounds that Wada and his party failed to prove the allegations of electoral malpractices in their petition.
Dissatisfied with the two judgments of the lower courts, Wada moved to the Supreme Court for the setting aside of the concurrent judgements of the tribunal and that of the Court of Appeal.
He wanted the apex court to set aside the judgments of the appellate court on the grounds that the Court of Appeal discarded evidence of rigging and violence in seven local government areas of the state.
The other petitioners were the Actions People’s Party and Democratic People’s Party.
However, their petitions were all dismissed by the Tribunal for lacking in merit.
Similarly, the Court of Appeal agreed that the cases of the appellants lacked merit and even dismissed some with cost against some appellants.
The Court of Appeal had in its judgment held that the allegations of over-voting, multiple thumb-printing and results falsification were not proved by the appellants.
In the split ruling delivered by Justice Haruna Tsamani, the appellate court held that the appellants merely dumped documents on the Tribunal without calling relevant witnesses to link the documents to the allegation of over-voting.
According to Tsamani, a party who alleges over-voting must tender the voter registers for the affected polling units and the results of the polling units, show how, without over-voting, the results would be in his or her favour.
While the majority judgment delivered by Justice Kashim Kaigama favoured Bello, the minority judgment delivered by Justice Ohimai Ovbiagele held that there was evidence of electoral malpractices in seven LGAs of the state.
Ovbiagele subsequently upturned Bello’s victory and ordered a rerun in the seven affected local government areas of the state.