As Nigerians await rulings from governorship tribunals in five more states, there could be surprises.
See developments on the cases below.
While it was earlier reported that the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Kano would deliver its verdict in October, it has reserved judgement. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its governorship candidate, Abba Kabir Yusuf, had filed a petition challenging the victory of Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje. The three-man tribunal, led by Justice Halima S. Muhammad, said it would communicate the date to the parties affected once it is fixed.
Final written addresses by all the parties were adopted at Wednesday’s sitting. While elaborating on his written address, counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Ahmed Raji, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), argued that the latitude would enable him present true certified copies of the document to prove his case. He alleged that the bulk of documents presented by the petitioners were pink copies, and urged the court to dismiss the case.
Also in his written address, counsel to Governor Ganduje, Offiong Offiong (SAN), argued that where an election result was challenged, the petitioner must provide two tables, one for the election result declared by the INEC and the other for the scores he considered as correct. Offiong said the petitioners failed to provide those two tables, thereby relying on the INEC result.
He also urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition. On his part, counsel to the All Progressives Congress (APC), Alex Izinyon (SAN), argued that the petitioners made a categorical assertion that the cancellation of results in 207 polling units by the INEC was unlawful and unjustifiable, but they failed to prove that. Mr Kanu Agabi (SAN), who spoke on behalf of the petitioners, said, “Our contention is that the first petitioner scored the majority of lawful votes cast in the March 9 election.”
In Sokoto, the opposition APC and its candidate, Alhaji Ahmed Aliyu, filed a petition against Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of the PDP. Tambuwal, who won his second term as governor, was in the APC during his first tenure before joining the PDP. In one of the recent sittings, the INEC reportedly failed to produce any of its 12 witnesses listed before the tribunal.
At the resumed sitting of the tribunal penultimate Tuesday, the first respondent, INEC, was supposed to have presented its witnesses, but its lead counsel, Alhassan Umar, told the tribunal that they would not do so. He said, “We have reviewed the petition and the witnesses called by the petitioners. We will rely on the evidence we have extracted from the cross-examination of the witnesses of the petitioners. We are within the law and the law allows that. So we will not be calling witnesses.”
In his reaction, the lead counsel to the petitioners, the APC and Aliyu Sokoto, Dr Alex Izinyon (SAN), said: “They claimed to have 12 witnesses, but they have failed to produce them. We are ever ready.” The lead counsel to the second respondent, Governor Tambuwal, Emmanuel Ukala (SAN), said: “We were actually taken by surprise for the first respondent to say they are not calling witnesses today.
The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Jos, on August 22, said it reserved judgement in the petition filed by Jeremiah Useni of the PDP against Governor Simon Lalong of the APC, after all the parties involved adopted their final written addresses. The chairman of the tribunal, Justice H.A Suleman, who made the declaration after listening to the parties in the matter, said the day of the judgement would be communicated to parties. When the case came up for adoption of written addresses, Mr Lalong, APC and the INEC asked the tribunal to dismiss the petition, which they said was lacking in merit.
The counsel to the INEC, Clement Onuuenuunor, argued that based on the evidence of the prosecution witness 71, INEC head of operations, the governorship election was free, fair and credible, contrary to the position of the petitioners. “According to the witness, the election was conducted in substantial compliance with the electoral act and INEC laid down guidelines. In view of this, the petitioners have not been able to prove their claims, and so, we urge this tribunal to dismiss the application for lack of merit, “Mr Onuuenuunor prayed.
Also speaking, L.U. Fagbemi (SAN), Mr Lalong’s counsel, asserted, “We submit that the petitioners have failed to prove any entitlement to any of their reliefs sought in their petition, therefore, the petition should be dismissed.”
The immediate past Governor Muhammed Abdullahi Abukakar of the APC petitioned the victory of Governor Mohammed Bala Abdulkadir of the PDP. It was reported that the resumed sitting of the tribunal in the state was disrupted after police fired teargas to disperse an unruly crowd in the court.
The crowd became restive when Governor Bala Mohammed left the tribunal after appearing as the first respondent in the case. His supporters and those of the former governor hauled verbal assaults, leading to fisticuffs, which attracted the attention of the police and other security agents present at the Magistrate’s Court premises, where the tribunal is sitting. The teargas, however, spread to the courtroom, leading to temporary stoppage of proceedings as people, including the judges, lawyers and witnesses, covered their noses and eyes to protect themselves.
The three judges, petitioners and the defence teams left the courtroom as people battled with the effect of the teargas. The PDP had already called its first witness in the case before the incident.