THE Supreme Court has delivered verdicts on some governorship election disputes emanating from the 2023 polls.
The apex court affirmed the election of all the governors the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared winner in the March 18, 2023, governorship election.
The court has so far delivered judgment on Abia, Cross River, Plateau, Lagos, Akwa Ibom, Benue, Zamfara, Kano, and Ebonyi governorship appeals.
Others are Kebbi, Ogun, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Delta and Gombe states.
Despite all the time and resources deployed on the litigations, the Supreme Court has sacked no governor elected in the 2023 election when filing this report.
On December 20, 2023, The ICIR reported how the appellate courts ruled on cases brought before them by parties in the election.
Governors who escaped Supreme Court’s hammer despite Tribunal, Appeal Court’s verdict against them
The apex court restored some governors previously sacked by the State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunals and the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal in Abuja sacked Abba Yusuf as Kano State governor, affirming the state’s governorship election petitions tribunal ruling that sacked him earlier.
In a judgment delivered on Friday, November 17, a three-member appellate court panel held that Yusuf’s party – the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) – breached the Constitution by sponsoring him.
The court ruled that he was not a member of the NNPP when he picked the party’s ticket.
However, in a contrary judgement on Friday, January 12, the Supreme Court affirmed Yusuf as the state governor.
In a judgement delivered by Inyang Okoro, the court declared that the nomination issue was exclusively the internal affairs of a political party and said nullifying the party’s decision was unjustifiable.
The court upheld the governor’s election in a unanimous decision.
The ICIR reports that there had been a raging feud between the All Progressives Congress (APC) and NNPP members in Kano since Yusuf took the oath of office as governor on May 29, 2023.
Shortly after assuming office, Yusuf embarked on a demolition spree of houses allegedly built on public land sold by the state’s immediate past government, led by Abdullahi Ganduje.
Ganduje is the incumbent APC national chairman.
The NNPP national leader and former governor in the state, Rabiu Kwankwaso, backed the demolition exercise, which was one of Yusuf’s campaign promises.
Ganduje and his supporters, on the one hand, and Yusuf, backed by Kwankwaso, on the other, engaged in a verbal war that almost ignited chaos in the state.
The brawl was one of the reasons for tension in the state while the governorship election litigation lasted.
In its decision on Thursday, November 23, the appellate court stated that the tribunal erred in declaring the PDP candidate, David Ombugadu, as the poll winner.
The court ruled that the tribunal did not give Sule a fair hearing.
The PDP appealed the appellate court’s judgment, which the Supreme Court upheld.
In a unanimous judgment, the Supreme Court’s panel of justices, led by Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, ruled that the decision upholding Sule’s election was thorough and well thought out.
Meanwhile, protests ensued in Lafia, the state capital, shortly after the Supreme Court’s ruling.
The Court of Appeal in Abuja nullified the election of Caleb Muftwang of Plateau State.
In her ruling on Sunday, November 19, 2023, the lead justice, Elfrieda Williams-Dawodu, set aside the tribunal’s judgment, which affirmed his election.
She held that Mutfwang’s party, the PDP, violated a court order to conduct a valid congress in the state’s 17 Local Government Areas.
However, on January 12, the Supreme Court’s five-man panel of justices, led by Emmanuel Agim, reinstated Mutfwang as the state governor.
The Court of Appeal, Abuja, on Thursday, November 16, declared the Zamfara State governorship election inconclusive.
The court also ordered a re-run in three Local Government Areas of the state namely Maradun, Birnin-Magaji, and Bukyun.
This was after the state Governorship Election Petition Tribunal had affirmed Lawal’s election.
In a contrary judgment on Friday, January 12, delivered by Emmanuel Agim, the Supreme Court overturned the Appeal Court’s decision and affirmed Lawal as the state governor.
The INEC declared Peter Mbah the winner of the March 18 governorship election in Enugu state on Wednesday, March 22.
The ICIR reported that the Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Dogara Ahmed, a brigadier-general, said the NYSC certificate the governor submitted to INEC to enable him to participate in the election was not issued by the organisation.
Ahmed stated this on May 19 while featured on the Arise News Television magazine programme ‘The Morning Show’.
The claim, earlier made by contenders for the governor’s seat and their supporters in the state, created anxieties as opposition parties, including the Labour Party, hoped they would assume the state leadership if Mbah is eventually sacked for presenting a forged certificate.
Mbah headed to court and sued the NYSC for N20 billion for the claim.
A Federal High Court in Abuja, headed by Nyang Ekwo, on Monday, November 6, confirmed the genuineness of the governor’s NYSC discharge certificate.
THE Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision on Friday, December 22, also affirmed Mbah’s election as Enugu State governor.
Mixed reactions greeted Supreme Court’s rulings
Nigerians reacted differently to the Supreme Court rulings on the cases.
While some lauded the court for the rulings, others condemned them.
Among those who reacted is the Northern Emancipation Network (NEN) which claimed that INEC’s dedication to holding credible elections was validated by the Supreme Court’s upholding the governors elections without sacking any of them.
In a statement issued by its Chairman, Suleiman Abbah, the group said that Mahmoud Yakubu, the Chairman of the Commission, should be honoured after all arguments were settled in favour of INEC.
Also reacting to the apex court judgement, a security analyst, Bulama Bukarti, in a post on his X account, said the Supreme Court’s decisions might affect future elections.
“It’s evident that the Supreme Court of Nigeria just decided that it would affirm the victory of every governor. While there might be a public interest rationale for the court’s decision, the potential message to politicians is concerning – that achieving election victory by any means will be upheld by the Supreme Court. This could jeopardise the prospects of free and fair elections in Nigeria,” he posted.