9 federal lawmakers sacked by Nigerian election tribunal so far
Nine members of Nigeria’s National Assembly, including senators and members of the House of Representatives, have been sacked by the election petition tribunals in various Nigeria states as of the time this story was published.
The tribunals sitting in virtually all the states of the federation have sacked some parliamentarians and ordered the withdrawal of Certificate of Return issued to them by INEC.
The courts, in some cases, declared some elections inconclusive and ordered their rerun within the stipulated 90 days.
In others, they disqualified the candidates INEC declared as winners, while also nullifying the victory of others.
The petitioners had mostly prayed the tribunals to either order the conduct of supplementary polls or disqualify the respondents and declare them as the rightful winners.
At least nine lawmakers have so far been sacked in Benue, Delta, Kogi, Lagos, Kano, Bayelsa and Abia states, even as more judgments are expected to be delivered in the days ahead.
They have however typically rejected the verdicts and were set to proceed to the Court of Appeal.
Meanwhile, a number of lawmakers who have been inaugurated but have cases in the courts are anxiously awaiting the outcome of their cases at the tribunals.
The Nigerian Electoral Act stipulates a 180-day lifespan within which the cases filed in March must be heard and determined, meaning that all the cases must be decided on or before September 16.
The presidential and National Assembly elections were conducted on March 25, 2023.
Daily Trust reported the incidents that led to the removal of some of the lawmakers.
Tribunal sacks Udende, declares Suswam senator
The latest sacking of a federal legislator was in Benue State, where the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Makurdi on Friday declared Senator Gabriel Suswam of the PDP as the winner of the February 25, election for Benue North East.
The tribunal’s judgement which lasted over three hours sacked the All Progressives Congress’ (APC’s) Emmanuel Udende from the upper chamber of the National Assembly.
The chairman of the three-man panel, Justice Ory Zik-Ikeorha, and another member, ruled in the favour of Suswam and PDP.
The duo averred that Suswam and PDP fulfilled the requirement of the law in proving his case of irregularities such as mutilation, non-signing of documents and non-inclusion of lawful votes.
But in a minority judgement, Justice Umar Mohammed opposed the decision of the two, saying that the petitioner failed to prove his case.
Suswam and PDP’s petition was predicated on one ground, that Udende did not score majority of the lawful votes cast during the election.
To this end, Justice Mohammed in his lone ruling held that the evidence by Suswan was grossly insufficient to sustain his petition.
Kano NNPP Rep, Yerima, sacked over forgery
The National and House of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal in Kano State nullified the election of Muktar Umar Yerima of the NNPP.
A three-man panel of the tribunal led by Justice I. P. Chima held that Yerima was not qualified, having forged his primary school certificate.
According to the tribunal, the case of the petitioner, Hafizu Kawu of the APC, challenging Yerima’s emergence succeeded, having proven a case of forgery against Yerima.
The tribunal, therefore, held that the NNPP had no candidate in the election and that all the votes that were cast for Yerima were wasted votes.
The tribunal held that Yerima’s defence that he made a change of name in 2022 did not hold water having been using three (Umar Mukhtar Zakari) names on his international passport since 2009, while his primary school certificate still bore Umar Mukhtar.
It, therefore, directed INEC to withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to Yerima.
Lagos LP Rep, Sowumi’s election nullified
The National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal has nullified the election of Seyi Sowunmi, the member representing Ojo Federal Constituency in Lagos State.
The three-member panel led by Justice Abdullahi Ozegya declared Lanre Ogunyemi of the APC as the winner of the election.
Other members of the panel are Justices Ashu Ewah and Muhammad Sambo.
Delta South’s Onowakpo knocked by inconclusive poll
The parliamentary election tribunal sitting in Asaba, the Delta State capital, declared as inconclusive the election that brought Senator Thomas Onowakpo of the APC to the National Assembly to represent Delta South and ordered that his Certificate of Return be withdrawn.
His main challenger in the poll, Michael Diden of the PDP, had prayed the tribunal to declare him the duly elected senator or order a supplementary poll for the disputed Warri South.
INEC had cancelled the results for Warri South LGA, claiming that they were not supported by accreditation.
The three-member tribunal headed by Justice Cathrine Ogunsola held that Onowakpo was not duly elected by lawful votes cast, adding that the votes for Warri South LGA were wrongfully cancelled.
The panel ordered INEC to conduct a supplementary election for Warri South LGA of the senatorial district within 90 days.
Justice Ogunsola who read the judgement, argued that the electoral body did not follow the Electoral Act before declaring APC winner of the election.
The tribunal held that it would be a travesty of justice for INEC to declare that there was no senatorial election in the area while holding that there were presidential and House of Representatives elections in the same locality.
Delta LP rep sacked
Still in Delta, the tribunal sitting sacked the lawmaker representing Aniocha/Oshimili Federal Constituency, Ngozi Okolie.
The tribunal nullified the election of Okolie who contested on the platform of LP and instead declared the candidate of the PDP, Ndudi Elumelu, winner of the February 25, election.
The three-member tribunal, headed by Justice A.Z. Mussa, declared that the LP candidate was wrongfully declared winner by INEC.
The PDP candidate, Elumelu, who was the Minority Leader in the 9th House of Representatives, had in his petition urged the tribunal to disqualify Okolie because he was not properly sponsored by LP, and that he did not resign his position as a public office holder.
Kogi East’s Echocho removed
The Senator representing Kogi East, Jibrin Isah Echocho, was sacked by the tribunal sitting in Lokoja after considering the petition by the PDP’s Victor Adoji.
The tribunal ordered the conduct of a supplementary election in 94 polling units with over 59,730 votes.
The panel’s Chairman, Justice K.A. Orjiako, who delivered the judgement, agreed with the prayers of the petitioners.
Adoji had through his counsel, Johnson Usman (SAN), challenged the return of Echocho because elections were cancelled in some polling units where PVCs collected were more than the margin of his (Echocho’s) win.
The petitioner had pleaded with the tribunal to void the election and order a supplementary election in the affected 94 polling units in the senatorial district.
Senator Ohere’s victory nullified
The declaration of Senator Abubakar Ohere (APC) as the winner of Kogi Central election was also nullified by the tribunal.
The tribunal declared Natasha Akpoti-Uduagan of the PDP as the winner of the February 25, parliamentary election.
In a unanimous judgement of the three-man panel, the tribunal’s Chairman, Justice K.A. Orjiako, said Ohere’s results were inflated in nine polling units of Ajaokuta LGA in the said election while that of the PDP candidate was intentionally reduced by the INEC collation officers.
Justice Orjiako also stated that three other polling units’ results were deliberately not entered for the PDP candidate in the same LGA.
He said Natasha’s results in the nine polling units of Ajaokuta LGA were 1,073 against the 77 that were recorded by the collation officers, while those of the APC candidate were inflated to 1,553 against the actual figure of 1,031.
He held that, “The tribunal is also convinced that the petitioner’s 996 votes in polling units 009, 046 and O49 of Ganaja village of Ajaokuta LGA were deliberately not recorded at the ward collation centre.”
The tribunal added that it was not the duty of collation officers to reject results submitted by presiding officers from polling units in elections that followed the electoral guidelines substantially.
He added that, “The issues raised by the petitioner are hereby resolved in favour of the petitioners, and after making the proper corrections, Natasha Akpoti-Uduagan (PDP) having polled 54,074 against Abubakar Ohere (APC) who polled 51,291 is hereby declared the authentic winner.”
Ohere faulted the decision of the tribunal, insisting that the facts of the law were not properly followed.
The lawmaker, who was recently named the Chairman, Senate Committee on Local Content, vowed to defend his electoral victory at the appellate court.
Abia LP rep, Ogah, sacked
In Abia, the tribunal sacked the Member representing Isuikwuato/Umunneochi Federal Constituency, Amobi Ogah, of LP, and declared the APC candidate, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, as winner of the February 25, poll.
Onyejeocha, a Deputy Whip in the 9th House of Representatives and incumbent Minister of State for Labour, had approached the tribunal to seek the nullification of Ogah’s emergence, alleging that he was not qualified to contest for the election and was not validly nominated and sponsored by his party.
Onyejeocha also sought a declaration that Ogah and LP did not win the majority of the validly cast votes in the election.
She further urged the tribunal to declare that she and not Ogah won the majority of the valid votes in the election.
Delivering judgment on the petition, Chairman of the three-man panel, Justice Adeyinka Aderegbegbe, granted her reliefs.
Meanwhile, Ogah has rejected the judgement, saying, “I want to state categorically and for the record that I will appeal the judgment by the tribunal as soon as I conclude with my legal team.
“My opponent, whom I know did not win the election and the judge cannot announce a result presented by the petitioner as concrete against the result presented by INEC.
“With the benefit of hindsight, this bizarre outcome is not totally strange as we have seen tendencies of clear compromise by the panel which discarded all known principles governing election adjudication and enunciated their own principles.”
Bayelsa PDP Rep, Agbedi, removed
In the same vein, the tribunal sitting in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, sacked Fred Agbedi of the PDP and ordered INEC to withdraw the certificate given to Agbedi and conduct a fresh election for the 26,000 voters unlawfully excluded.
Michael Bless Olomu of APC had prayed the court to return him as the winner of the election following violence witnessed during the election.
The 9,000-vote margin which Agbedi had against Olomu in the election remains valid.
The tribunal directed INEC to conduct a re-election in Ward 5 and five units in Ward 11 in Sagbama LGA, as well as some units in Wards 11 and 12 in Ekeremor LGA with a total of 25,000 registered voters.
Meanwhile, Agbedi said he was ready for the supplementary election and that he was not going on appeal.
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