The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja has affirmed the judgement of the governorship election petitions tribunal, which nullified the election of Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf of Kano State.
The appellate court upheld the verdict of the tribunal led by Justice Oluyemi Akintan-Osadebay delivered on September 20, 2023.
The lower court had declared 165,663 votes of Yusuf, who contested under the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP), invalid on the grounds that they were not signed or stamped by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The governor’s votes were then reduced to 853,939 while that of Nasir Gawuna of the All Progressives Congress (APC), remained at 890,705.
Yusuf had rejected the tribunal verdict, which he described as “unfair and a miscarriage of justice.”
In his argument, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), the lead counsel for Yusuf, asked the appellate court to set aside the tribunal judgement.
Kicking against the ruling on ballot papers, the senior advocate said that it was the first time in history that a tribunal would annul an election over non-signing of the back of ballot papers.
He said the tribunal erred, arguing that it was also the first time that a political party would file a suit without joining its candidate as a party in the petition and the candidate would be declared winner of the poll.
But counsel for APC, Akin Olujimi (SAN) countered his argument, saying the Appeal Court had emphatically stated that the non-signing of ballot papers amounted to electoral malpractice.
Delivering judgement on the matter on Friday, the appeal court held that Yusuf was not qualified to contest the election.
The three-member panel led by Justice M.A Adumeh held that Yusuf was not in the membership register of his political party.
Citing a provision of the electoral act, he said a party must have the names of its registered members both in hard and soft copies.
He added that Yusuf did not put up any resistance against the allegation.
“If you claim you are a member of a party, is it not logical to say so yourself rather than by proxy ?” the judge asked.
He said Section 134 of the electoral act allowed the court to entertain an averment on the qualification of a candidate in an election.
Justice Adumeh held that the court cannot allow political parties act arbitrarily.
“Constitution is supreme and binding on all person including political parties.
“Political parties cannot be permitted to circumvent the clear and mandatory provision of the Constitution. To contest an election you must not only be a member of a party but sponsored by that party.
“The electoral act made it mandatory that a party must keep a register of its members and make it available to INEC before an election.
“Abba was not a member of his party by the time he was purportedly sponsored by his party. He was not qualified to qualify for the election. A court must be consistent with its judgement,” he said.
The judge noted that the tribunal was wrong not to have disqualified Yusuf in its judgement.
“The failure to comply with Sec 177(c) is fatal to their election. A person must. Where a party carelessly nominates a candidate such is a nullity irrespective of whether he performs well. Sponsorship without membership is like putting nothing on something, it cannot stand. This is a clear example of acting with brazen impunity as if the Constitution is not binding,“ he held.
Adumeh berated political parties for always blaming their defeat at the court on the judges.
“The same party will wake up to accuse the judiciary, including infamous allegations of corrupt practices.
“All the issues are hereby resolved against the appellant. The judgwment of the tribunal is hereby affirmed. The sum of N1 million is hereby awarded in favour of the first respondent against the appellant.”