The Court of Appeal in Abuja has voided the election of Dauda Lawal as the governor of Zamfara State,Daily Trust report.
A three-member panel of justices led by Justice Omoloye Jombo-Ojo on Thursday ordered a rerun of the election in three local governments of Birnin Magaji, Bukuyyum and Maradun.
In the lead judgment delivered by Justice Sybil Nwaka Gbagi, the appellate court faulted the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)’s use of IREV for the collation of results when the Supreme Court had ruled that it is not a result collation system but only for public viewing.
The panel unanimously upheld four out of the seven issues for the determination in the appeal brought by the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate in the election, Bello Matawalle.
“I hereby declare that the governorship election of 18th of March, 2023 is inconclusive.
“That the return of the first respondent (Lawal) by the third respondent (INEC) is hereby set aside.
“The third respondent (INEC) is hereby directed to hold fresh elections in Maradun Local Government Area and the affected polling units in Birnin Magaji and Bukuyyum local government areas. This is the judgment of this honourable court,” the court held.
Matawalle and the APC had filed the petition following INEC’s declaration of Lawal of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner of the election with 377,726 votes as against Matawalle, who polled 311,976 votes.
Matawalle, who was former governor of Zamfara State and current Minister of State for Defence, had contended that election did not hold in many polling units in the three local governments, including 98,506 votes in Maradun, were not counted.
He contended that Lawal was not duly elected by a majority of the lawful votes cast in the election and that the conduct was not in compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022.
But the Zamfara State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal dismissed the petition.
Efforts to speak to the Zamfara governor and those closed to him to hear about their next line of action were not successful.
Kano, Bauchi govs know fate today
Meanwhile, the appellate court has fixed today for judgments in the appeals emanating from the election petitions tribunal of Kano and Bauchi state.
For Kano, the court will rule on the appeals filed by Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf, his party the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) and INEC challenging the judgment of the Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, which had removed the governor.
The appellate court, in a hearing notice sighted by Daily Trust, communicated the date for the judgment to the parties on Thursday.
Recall that a three-man panel of judges led by Justice Oluyemi Akintan-Osadebay sacked Yusuf on September 20, by declaring 165,663 of his votes invalid because they were not signed or stamped by the INEC.
The governor’s votes were then reduced to 853,939 while those of Nasir Gawuna, his APC rival, remained at 890,705.
Yusuf had rejected the tribunal verdict, which he described as “unfair” and “a miscarriage of justice”, and headed to the appeal court.
At the court, Wole Olanipekun (SAN) counsel for Yusuf, asked that the judgement of the tribunal be set aside. He said this is the first time in history that a tribunal would annul an election over non-signing of the back of ballot papers.
He also said the tribunal erred, arguing that, that was the first time that a political party would file a matter without joining its candidate as a party in the petition and the candidate would be declared winner of the polls.
But Akin Olujimi (SAN), counsel for APC, countered saying the Appeal Court stated emphatically that the non-signing of ballots amounted to electoral malpractice.
The appellate court had after the hearing reserved judgement.
For Bauchi State, the APC and its governorship candidate, former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, had challenged the judgment of the election petition tribunal, which affirmed the re-election of Bala Muhammad of the PDP.
Panic buying of foodstuffs in Kano over fear of violence
Daily Trust reports that there was an uneasy calm in the Kano metropolitan area on Thursday following the announcement of Friday as the day of the judgment in the governorship polls.
Resident’s feared violence may break out if the appeal court affirms the decision of the tribunal that sacked the NNPP-led government.
Daily Trust gathered that this kick-started panic buying in several markets and stores with residents preparing for a situation where they would be unable to go out of their homes for a few days.
Residents by foot and on vehicles were seen flooding business environments to get one thing or the other for their daily upkeep for at least two or more days. Many of those spoken to by our reporters said they had to make the purchases to avoid a situation where they and their families would be stranded.
A businessman at Kwari market, Yunusa Abdullah said, “We are praying for things to go easily without any issue but for me, I will not even come to the market because you can never tell what will happen.
“I wonder why all this, now, everybody will go to sleep with this in their minds thinking. You will see by tomorrow (today), all busy streets will be relatively empty. Everybody will sit at home because we have seen what happened when the Tribunal gave its verdict.”
Another businessman, Usman Bello said, “We will not come out to the market tomorrow, you see, they will definitely cheat us as we would not be able to come out and get our daily bread.”
NNPP, APC sign peace deal in Kano
Meanwhile, the NNPP and APC have signed a pact with the Kano State Police Command to maintain peace before, during and after the governorship election appeal verdict.
The peace pact was signed on behalf of the NNPP by Wada Ibrahim, its Vice Chairman while Ibrahim Zakari Sarina, the APC secretary, represented the opposition party.
Briefing journalists after the peace accord signing, the state Commissioner of Police, CP Usaini Gumel said the force has drawn up modalities that would promote peace and harmony in the state before, during and after the governorship appeal verdict.
Gumel, who spoke in company of other heads of security agencies, said the peace deal signed by the two parties include: “No politically motivated clusters of people would be allowed at any location under whatever guise; that, their supporters would not engage in any mass action suggesting preparation for violent procession, protests or celebrations that may trigger reactions; That, unguarded statements from their members likely to increase political tension or undermine the security arrangements and sanctity of the Judiciary would be avoided.”
Other conditions in the deal are: “That, their parties will support all the arrangements put in place by the security apparatus to maintain peace and order, and that, any person or group of persons directly or indirectly found disrupting the peace before, during and after the appeal judgment shall face the full wrath of the law.”
The Bauchi State Police Command had also warned political party supporters against wild jubilations or any violent reactions after the judgement, saying blockage of roads, fireworks and inciting utterances or blackmail against the opposition party would not be condoned.
The spokesman for the command, SP Mohammad Wakil, in a statement said, “The Command will not dawdle to decisively deal with any persons or groups who violate this order or deliberately cause the breakdown of law and order in whatever manner.
“Those in violation will be arrested and made to face the full wrath of the law as security agencies have been deployed strategically and directed to ensure full enforcement.”
Kano govt calls for calm
Kano State government has advised people in the state to remain calm and avoid acts capable of causing breach of the peace as the Appeal Court delivers judgement today.
A statement issued to newsmen in Kano by the state Commissioner for Information, Baba Halilu Dantiye, on Thursday, said the advice became necessary as some may take advantage of the situation and cause breach of the peace.
Dantiye stressed the need for people to maintain the peace for the development of the state and country at large.
He also called on security agencies to double their efforts in ensuring that law and order are maintained as well as ensure full protection of lives and properties of the citizens in the state.
By John Chuks Azu (Abuja), Ahmad Datti & Salim U. Ibrahim (Kano) & Hassan Ibrahim (Bauchi)