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See main issues Nigeria’s Supreme Court will decide in Kano guber appeal, as court fixes Friday for judgement

See main issues Nigeria’s Supreme Court will decide in Kano guber appeal, as court fixes Friday for judgement

The Supreme Court has fixed Friday for judgment in the Kano state governorship election appeals.

Counsel on all sides of the appeal have confirmed this to NigerianSketch.

There is however a restriction on the number of representations each party can bring to the Supreme Court, as the Apex court allowed only two lawyers per party.

This was due to the number of judgement that the court was scheduled to deliver on the same day.

For Kano State, Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf had filed an appeal against the judgment of the Court of Appeal, which had affirmed his sacking.

Initially, the state Election Petition Tribunal had sacked the governor based on alleged invalid votes and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue a certificate of return to Nasir Yusuf Gawuna, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the March, 2023 election.

The governor approached the Appeal Court, but the appellate court had affirmed his sack, saying he was not even a member of the NNPP as of the time of the election and could not have been said to have been properly sponsored for the election.

Two basic questions

Yusuf had further appealed to the Supreme Court, which is now set to deliver judgement on two basic issues.

The first was the issue of ballot papers that were said not to have been signed, stamped and dated by INEC.

The Kano Election Petition Tribunal deducted 165,663 votes from the NNPP, adding that the ballot papers of the 165,663 were not stamped or signed and therefore declared invalid.

According to figures announced by INEC in the election, NNPP polled 1,019,602 votes while APC scored 890, 705 votes, leaving a difference of 128,897 votes.

But after voiding 165,663 ballot papers, NNPP votes dropped to 853,939, while APC remained at 890,705, leaving a difference of 36,766 votes in favour of APC.

The tribunal said the petitioner has proven the allegation of the invalidity of some of the votes cast on the ground that the election was not in compliance with the provision of the Electoral Act, 2022.

The tribunal therefore ordered that the invalid votes scored by Gov Yusuf be expunged from the total votes he scored.

But INEC’s counsel, A, B. Mahmoud, told the Supreme Court that the said ballot papers were okayed by the electoral umpire, claiming that they are supposed to be considered valid.

It remained to be seen if the Supreme Court will be swayed by Mahmoud’s argument.

The second was the question whether Governor Yusuf was qualified to contest the March 18, 2023 governorship election considering his membership of the political party that floated him.

Yusuf contested for the governorship on the platform of the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP) but the Court of Appeal ruled that he was not a valid member of the party as of the time of the election, his name not been in the register of members submitted by the party to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Based on precedents, the Supreme Court had variously said that issues bothering on membership of a contestant are purely internal matters of the political party concerned, and that a non-member of the party cannot question it. The courts in Nigeria also always considered it a pre-election matter.

Constitutional or election petition matter

In this case however, the APC claimed that Governor Yusuf’s membership issue is a constitutional requirement, relying on Section 177(c) of the Constitution, as amended, and Section 77 of the Electoral Act.

APC’s counsel, Akin Olujimi, insisted that Section 177(c) of the Constitution is a key determiner of the Kano matter, and that the matter being a constitutional issue gives the Supreme Court jurisdiction to decide on it.

INEC and APC saw it differently, and the Supreme Court may actually have to determine this question before any other.

 

 

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