Supreme Court will today deliver judgment in the governorship appeals from Kano and Sokoto states over the March 2019 elections.
According to our correspondents, there is anxiety in the two states ahead of the judgment which will either confirm or upturn the elections of Governor Abdullahi Ganduje who vied on the platform of APC or Aminu Waziri Tambuwal who contested under the umbrella of PDP.
The seven-member panel of justices led by Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mr Tanko Muhammad, had on Wednesday, January 15, adjourned the two appeals for judgment today after lawyers in the matters made their submissions.
The CJN had explained that the reason for fixing the judgment for today was to avoid breaching the provision of the law on time limit for the disposal of election petitions.
Section 285 (7) of the Constitution provides that: “An appeal from a decision of the election tribunal or court shall be heard and disposed-off within 60 days from the date of the delivery of judgment.”
Due to this time limit, the apex court will within the week also determine the governorship appeals for Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue and Plateau states.
Ahead of today’s judgment and in reference to last week’s verdict in which the Supreme Court sacked Governor Emeka Ihedioha of Imo State in favour of Mr Hope Uzodinma of APC, PDP had asked the Chief Justice of Nigeria to recuse himself, a call that elicited different reactions.
Issues in the Kano gov’ship tussle
Mr Adegboyega Awomolo who is counsel to PDP candidate in Kano, Mr Abba Kabiru-Yusuf, had asked Supreme Court to overturn the decisions of the Court of Appeal and the governorship election petition tribunal and affirm his client as winner of the March 9, 2019 election.
He said INEC Returning Officer illegally cancelled election results from 207 polling units in the state, declared the election inconclusive and went ahead to fix March 23, 2019, for a supplementary poll.
Awomolo asked the court to hold that the second election was no longer material as Kabiru-Yusuf was already leading in the main election.
But INEC counsel, Mr Ahmed Raji, asked the panel to dismiss the appeal for want of evidence to prove that the 207 polling units were cancelled by the Returning Officer.
He said different reports showed that PDP agents and thugs prevented the Returning Officer from collating the results and carted them away.
Also, Mr Ganduje through his lawyers, Messers Offiong Offiong and M.N. Duru, argued that the submissions by Kabiru-Yusuf and PDP were based on wrong premises which did not take cognizance of the attack on the Returning Officer. They, therefore, asked the apex court to dismiss the appeal and affirm their victory in the election.
The argument over Sokoto gov’ship
On the Sokoto appeal, counsel to APC candidate in the election, Mr Alex Izinyon asked the Supreme Court to nullify the election of Tambuwal because he had not led evidence to justify the 342 votes which separates him from the APC candidate.
Aliyu polled 511,661 votes against 512,002 votes by Tambuwal after conclusion of collation in the rerun.
But lawyers to PDP and Tambuwal, Messers Emmanuel Ukala and Muyiwa Akinboro asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the appeal. They argued that they have met the standard of proof that they won the election.
“The Supreme Court cannot tamper with the concurrent judgments of the lower courts if it is not in any way perverse or proved to be wrong,” Akinboro said.
Top Kano officials keeping vigil in Abuja
Ahead of today’s judgment, top government officials from Kano and Sokoto have relocated to Abuja.
Ganduje and his deputy, Mr Nasiru Gawuna, left Kano for Abuja since Wednesday; while many commissioners and other top government functionaries joined them on Friday.
A source within the cabinet said few commissioners have remained in Kano so as not to completely ground the government.
Thousands of supporters have been ferried to Abuja in buses in solidarity with the governor.
Speaking to our reporter, the state’s Commissioner for Local Government, Mr Murtala Garo, said the APC-led government was confident of winning at the Supreme Court.
Garo said, “We have won at the tribunal and appeal court and we are hopeful to win at the Supreme Court. If you take the genesis of the March 23, 2019 re-run election that saw us victorious, you will find out that the March 9, 2019 gubernatorial election was declared inconclusive because of over-voting and violence,” he said.
On the other hand, Mr Rabi’u Bichi, an influential figure in the Kwankwasiyya movement, said PDP approached the Supreme Court because it was not satisfied with the judgments of both the election petition tribunal and the appeal court, respectively.
He said, “We approached the Supreme Court because we are expecting justice there and God willing we will get it. We are hoping today’s judgment will be in our favour.”
Tambuwal, Aliyu away from Sokoto
In Sokoto, Mr Tambuwal and APC’s Ahmed Aliyu have also left for Abuja ahead of today’s judgment.
Tambuwal was said to have been in Abuja since the date for the commencement of hearing on the appeal was fixed by the Supreme Court.
He only went to Sokoto to perform the laying of wreath during the Armed Forces Remembrance Day on Wednesday.
Mr Yusuf Dingyadi who is an aide to Tambuwal, said they have nothing to fear, stressing that the Sokoto governorship case at the Supreme Court is unlike that of Imo where the governor lost his seat.
“APC built its petition on assumption and there is no way assumption can hold because you have to prove beyond reasonable doubt,” he said.
Also in Abuja keeping vigil is Senator Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko who is the APC leader in Sokoto.
Wamakko has in an unusual manner kept away from Sokoto since the party and its candidate filed an appeal against the verdict of the Court of Appeal except when he visited the state for the marriage ceremony of the daughter of Musa S. Adar and went back to Abuja the same day.
Supporters of the two parties have been intensifying prayers seeking divine intervention for victory today.
Chairman of PDP prayer committee, Mr Isa Birni, said it was only “a dreamer that would conclude that the seat would be taken away” from Tambuwal.
On their part, APC supporters have been converging on Sultan Abubakar III Juma’at Mosque, praying for success at the Supreme Court.
Chairman of APC prayer Committee, Mr Ya’u Danda, said they were cautioned by their leaders not to make pronouncement on the case but dedicate themselves to offering prayers with the good intention of faithfully serving the people of the state if they secured victory at the apex court.