There was confusion over the judgement of the Kaduna State governorship election petition tribunal delivered on Thursday.
The three-man panel led by Justice Victor Oviawe had delivered judgement on the petition filed by Mohammed Isa Ashiru of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) via Zoom.
While several reports in the media claimed that the tribunal nullified the election of the state governor, Uba Sani, the governor in a statement posted on his X account said that tribunal affirmed his election.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Sani of the All Progressives Congress (APC) winner of the governorship election. According to INEC, Sani polled 730,002 votes to defeat his closest challenger, ho scored 719,196 votes.
Dissatisfied with the results announced by INEC, Ashiru approached the tribunal to challenge the outcome of the election.
After Thursday’s judgement, several media organisations, including Newspeakonline, reported that the tribunal nullified Sani’s victory in the March 18 governorship election and ordered a rerun in 24 polling units in seven wards of four local government areas of the state consisting of 16,300 registered voters.
The tribunal had earlier dismissed preliminary objection filed by Sani on the timeliness of the petition of the PDP and its candidate, Ashiru.
Sani had, through his legal team, argued that the petitions of the petitioners were filed outside the 21 days allowed by the law.
The court, however, affirmed that the petitions were filed on April 10, 2023.
The panel subsequently dismissed Sani’s petition, who is the second respondent in the case.
However, in the statement, titled, ‘The Kaduna Election Petition Tribunal Judgement is a clear affirmation of the popular mandate given to me by the people of Kaduna State,’ posted on his X page, Sani asked Ashiru and members of the opposition parties in the state to join hands with his administration as they strive to move the state to a higher level.
“I am extremely delighted and humbled by the ruling of the Election Petition Tribunal affirming my victory in the 2023 Kaduna State Governorship Elections. The judgement is an unequivocal affirmation of the popular mandate graciously given to me by the good people of Kaduna State. I commend the Tribunal for their thoroughness and lucidity. They have enriched our jurisprudence and practice of electoral democracy.
“I also commend my dear brother, Hon. Isah Ashiru Kudan for approaching the Tribunal to ventilate his grievances. This is a clear demonstration of 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.
“I call on our party faithful to moderate their celebration of this victory. They must individually and collectively extend an olive branch to our brothers and sisters in other political parties. Instead of celebrating, we should bow down in prayers to the Almighty God for His continued guidance and protection. Let us focus on the tasks ahead,” the governor wrote.
Meanwhile, the PDP governorship candidate, Ashiru, has maintained that the tribunal nullifie Sani’s election.
In a post on his X account, Ashiru said on the preliminary objection, the tribunal judges, based on the majority of 2:1 upheld the preliminary objection of Sani to the effect that the application for pre-hearing was done prematurely.
He, however, added that the tribunal by a split decision of 2:1 nullified the election of the governor and ordered that the Certificate of Return be retrieved and fresh elections be conducted in some polling units in four local government areas.
“First, I give glory to God Almighty for the progress made so far in our effort to reclaim the mandate given to us by the good people of Kaduna State. I also thank the people of the state for widely believing in me and the PDP.
“Also, given the ruling of the Kaduna state election tribunal, it has become necessary to share with our teaming supporters, the true position of the ruling.
“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 4 LGAs and the outcome thereof be reckoned with before the declaration of the winner of the governorship election in Kaduna state.
“I want to again thank the people of the state while urging them all to remain lawabiding while we pursue the appeal process.
“One thing I can assure the good people Kaduna state is that I will pursue this mandate you freely gave me to its logical conclusion and by the grace of God, victory on our side,” Ashiru wrote.