Following the judgement of the Kaduna State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal on Thursday, there was confusion over the real substance of the judgement as both the governor of the state, Uba Sani of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and his opponent, Isa Ashiru of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) claimed victory at the tribunal.
After a five-hour judgement, news filtered in that the tribunal had nullified Sani’s victory in the March 18 governorship election and ordered a rerun in 22 polling units. But few minutes later, the governor in a statement posted on his X account, declared that the tribunal affirmed his victory. This development left Nigerians confused, with many wondering who actually won at the tribunal.
However, Newspeakonline gathered that the election of Sani was actually upheld by the tribunal in the judgement delivered via Zoom.
The three-member panel led by Justice Victor Oviawie, in a split decision of 2:1, dismissed the petitions filed by the PDP and its candidate, Ashiru.
In the lead judgement, Justice Oviawie said the preliminary notice of the petitioners were filed outside the 21 days prescribed by the law from the day when the result of the election was declared, adding that the petition was deemed to be abandoned.
He, therefore, dismissed the petitions. His judgement was seconded by Justice N. Nonye, while Justice K. Damlat disagreed with the ruling, noting that the preliminary notice was properly filed and not abandoned
However, in compliance with the Supreme Court standing order, the tribunal delved into the substantive matter to look at the merits of the petitions.
The tribunal in the lead judgement delivered by Justice K. Damlat and supported by Justice N. Nonye, said the petitioner was able to prove beyond doubt that the election was invalid in 22 polling units across seven wards in four local government areas of the state.
They held that the number of registered voters in the 22 polling units were 16,500, which was more than the 10,806 margin of victory Sani recorded, thereby making the election inconclusive.
They subsequently ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to Sani and conduct elections in the 22 polling units within 90 days.
But in a dissenting judgement, Justice Oviawie said that the allegations that elections in the 22 polling units did not comply with the electoral act 2022 (as amended) were not proved beyond reasonable doubt.
Reacting, counsel to the APC, Sanusi Musa, said they were happy with the judgment and had no course to file any appeal as the judgment was in their favour.
“The tribunal has dismissed the petition filed by PDP and its candidate in the lead judgement. The tribunal ruled that the petition had been abandoned and it was dismissed. We are happy with the judgement because it affirmed the election of Governor Uba Sani,” he said.
In his reaction, counsel to the PDP, Baba Aliyu, said: “We are not fully satisfied with the judgement because we wanted our client to be declared the winner of the election based on our arguments and facts laid before the tribunal.”
Judgement affirms mandate given to me by Kaduna people- Sani
Meanwhile, Kaduna State Governor, Sani, in a statement he personally signed, said the judgement was a clear affirmation of the popular mandate given to him by the people of the state.
“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 of 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 said.
We’ll appeal judgement– Ashiru
However,, the PDP governorship candidate, Ashiru, has urged his supporters to remain law abiding.
In a statement, Ashiru assured the people that he would pursue the mandate they gave him to its logical conclusion.
“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.
“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 law abiding while we pursue the appeal process.
“One thing I can assure the good people of 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,” the PDP candidate said.