BY ANDREW OROLUA
The Supreme Court on Thursday, affirmed Ahmed Aliyu (Sokoto), Siminalayi Fubara (Rivers) State and Kefas Agbu (Taraba) as duly elected governors of their states.
A unanimous judgment of a five-member panel of Justices of the apex court delivered by Justice Tijjani Abubakar, affirmed the election of Ahmed Aliyu as Governor of Sokoto State.
The apex court dismissed the appeal filed by Saidu Umar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) challenging the election of Governor Aliyu of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The Court held that the appellants did not demonstrate that the Sokoto State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal and the Court of Appeal were perverse in their judgments and did not also show evidence of miscarriage of justice.
Consequently, Justice Abubakar dismissed the appeal for being incompetent and lacking in merit.
INEC had in March, 2023 declared Aliyu as winner of the March 18, Sokoto state governorship election, having won majority of the lawful votes cast at the election.
Not satisfied, Umar and PDP challenged the declaration on grounds of malpractices, non-compliance with the electoral laws, as well as non-qualification and urged the Tribunal to void Aliyu’s election as governor.
They also prayed the Tribunal to sack Aliyu and declare them authentic winner of the election, while on the other hand, they urged that the election be declared inconclusive and a rerun in about 138 polling units be ordered.
The apex court also validated the election of Siminalayi Fubara of the PDP as governor of Rivers State.
In the lead judgment delivered by Justice Ibrahim Saulawa, the apex court dismissed the appeal by Mr Tonye Cole of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for being incompetent and lacking in merit and held that Fubara was validly elected as governor of Rivers state.
Justice Saulawa held that, the appellant did not prove his allegations of over-voting, non-compliance as well as non-qualification of Fubara to contest the election.
“This appeal is grossly lacking in merit and liable to be dismissed and it is accordingly dismissed”, Justice Saulawa held.
The Court upheld the concurrent judgments of the Rivers State governorship election petition Tribunal and the Court of Appeal which earlier dismissed the appeal for lacking in merit.
INEC had declared that Fubara polled a total of 302,614 votes to defeat his closest rival, Cole of the APC who got a total of 95,274 votes.
Dissatisfied with the outcome of the election, Cole approached the tribunal to challenge it on the grounds that the Rivers State governorship election was marred by corrupt practices and that, it was not conducted in compliance with provisions of the Electoral Act.
The APC governorship candidate also alleged that Fubara did not validly resign his previous position held in the state as required by the law, before the election was held.
Similarly, the apex court affirmed the election of Governor Kefas Agbu of Taraba State.
A five-member panel of the apex court in a unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Garba Lawal, affirmed the election of Kefas Agbu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) after dismissing the appeal filed by Yahaya Sani of the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP), for being incompetent and lacking in merit.
Justice Lawal pointed out that the appellants did not provide any tangible evidence to show that the two judgments of the Court of Appeal and the Taraba state Governorship Election Petition Tribunal were perverse in dismissing their case.
According to Justice Lawal, the Court of Appeal was right in holding that the case of the appellants was incompetent on grounds of incomplete transmission of the record of proceedings.
The apex court subsequently affirmed the concurrent judgments of the two lower courts that affirmed the declaration of Agbu as winner of the March 18, 2023, governorship election in Taraba State.
It would be recalled that, the Court of Appeal in Abuja had, in November last year, affirmed the election of Kefas Agbu.
A three-member panel of the appellate court in two separate appeals held that Agbu was lawfully declared by INEC as the winner of the March 18 governorship election in the state.
Delivering judgment in the appeal filed by Prof Yahaya Sani of the NNPP, the appellate court held that the allegations of non-compliance, irregularities and other malpractices were not proved by the appellant.
The Court of Appeal, also in a unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Peter Affen, faulted the appellant for dumping documents on the court, stressing that even if there were manifest incidents of malpractices or irregularities on the face of the documents, the appellant ought to have led oral evidence to support his allegations.
The court had dismissed the appeal for being incompetent and lacking in merit on grounds that the record of proceedings transmitted to the appellate court was incomplete.
The court also struck out the the cross appeal filed by the governor, on the grounds that the petitioner was inconsistent in the reliefs sought in his petition.
According to the appellate court, while the appellants had prayed for nullification of the election on grounds of non-compliance with the Electoral Act, they in another breath asked the court to pronounce them as winners of the same election on ground of scoring majority of lawful votes.
The court held that it is against the law for any litigant as in the case of the NNPP and its governorship candidate to blow hot and cold at the same time.
Justice Affen further held that, having prayed that the election be nullified on account of non adherence to the Electoral Act, the alternative prayer, that they be declared winner of the same election have no legs to stand upon.
It would be recalled that a three-man panel of justices led by Justice G. A. Sunmonu of the Taraba state Governorship election petition Tribunal had, on September 30, 2023 dismissed the petition filed by the NNPP and its governorship candidate for lacking in merit.