Conflicting narratives trail tribunal ruling on Kaduna’s governorship election 

DIFFERENT narratives have trailed the ruling of the Election Petition Tribunal on the Kaduna state 2023 governorship election.

According to a report by Channels Television, the tribunal sitting in Kaduna dismissed the suit filed by Isah Ashiru and his party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), challenging the victory of Governor Uba Sani of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the March 18 governorship election.

In its judgment on Thursday, September 28, the tribunal dismissed the suits against Sani, stating that the pre-hearing notice was filed out of time and, therefore, deemed to lack merit.

The court, however, acknowledged that if the petition hadn’t been dismissed due to lack of merit, it would have instructed a supplementary election in 22 polling units within 90 days as part of the final judgment.

On March 20, 2023, the Returning Officer for the state governorship poll, Lawal Suleiman Bilbis, declared Uba Sani as the election winner.

Sani, according to the INEC official, polled 730,002 votes to defeat his closest rival, Isa Ashiru of the PDP, who scored 719,196 votes.

The Labour Party (LP) candidate, Jonathan Asake, came a distant third after polling 58,283 votes, while the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) candidate, Suleiman Hunkuyi scored 21,405 votes.

PDP and Ashiru claimed that INEC was involved in substantial irregularities and resulted in manipulation favouring Sani in specific local government areas.

The PDP stressed that Sani did not score the highest number of valid votes cast in the election and ought not to have been returned winner by the INEC, which subsequently made the party file a petition at the election petition tribunal to challenge the Sani’s election.

On September 3, PDP revealed to the tribunal that two conflicting election results emerged from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) during the election.

Following submitting his final written addresses to the three-man panel led by Victor Oviawie at the tribunal, the PDP candidate, represented by his lead counsel Oluwole Iyamu, pointed to INEC as the party responsible for manipulating the election results.

In his conclusive written submissions, Ashiru accused INEC of over-voting and misusing electoral processes. He emphasized the need for the tribunal to reverse INEC’s declaration, which declared Sani as Kaduna state governor.

However, Sani’s counsel, Duro Adeyele (SAN), argued that the written addresses of Ashiru and PDP were incompetent, adding that it was a violation of the law.

“My submission is that filling three separate addresses is an abuse of the court process. The only alternative left for the petitioners is to pick one out of the three,” Adeyele said.

Ashiru reacts, says court nullifies election 

Reacting to the tribunal ruling, Ashiru, in a statement released via his X handle, stated that the tribunal nullified the election and subsequently called for a re-run.

He wrote: “On the preliminary objection, the tribunal,  based on the majority of 2:1 judges, upheld the preliminary objection of the respondent to the effect that the application for pre-hearing was done prematurely, i.e. before the service of the last set of petitioners’ reply to the 2nd respondent’s reply to the petition was served. 

“However, the law enjoins the tribunal, as a trial court, to proceed to pronounce on the merit of the substantive suit so that in the event the court of appeal finds that the trial tribunal was wrong in its decision on the preliminary objection, it would have the benefit of pronouncing on the decision of the tribunal in the substantive matter. 

“Accordingly, the trial tribunal finds merit in the aspect of the petitioner’s case relative to the margin of win between the two leading candidates. The tribunal, by a split decision of 2:1 accordingly, nullified the election of the governor of Kaduna state, ordered that the Certificate of Return  be retrieved, and fresh elections be conducted in some polling units in four LGAs, and the outcome thereof be reckoned with before the declaration of the winner of the governorship election in Kaduna state.”

Sani lauds tribunal, urges opposition to work with him

Also, speaking on the judgment via his X handle, Sani expressed delight over the judgement and commended the tribunal for what he described as ‘thoroughness and lucidity.’

While also commending the efforts of the PDP candidate, he said his approach towards the tribunal demonstrated his belief in the principles of democracy and the imperative of civility in the conduct of political actors.

“I call on Hon. Isah Ashiru and members of the opposition parties in Kaduna State to join hands with us as we strive to move our dear state to a higher level. We are all stakeholders in Project Kaduna. It is not about personal glory.

“Our people want all hands to be on deck to address the myriad challenges confronting the state. If political actors are united, a clear signal will be sent to our people that the quest for peace, security, progress and development of our state are the driving forces of our participation in politics,” he added.

Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: [email protected]. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M

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