Alex Enumah in Abuja and Ibrahim Oyewale in Lokoja
There was anxiety among political actors in Kogi State ahead of today’s hearing and possible delivery of judgment in the appeal filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) against the judgments of the Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal and the Court of Appeal, which affirmed the election of Governor Yahaya Bello in the November 16, 2019 election in the state.
The Supreme Court will hear four appeals against the election of Bello and as it’s the habit in recent times, the apex court may deliver its judgment thereafter.
One of the appeals listed for a hearing which was sighted by THISDAY is “SC 388/2020,” filed by the PDP and its governorship candidate, Mr. Musa Wada.
The hearing notice dated August 21 and signed by the Director/HoD (Head of Department), Litigation, Mr. Ibrahim Gold, read, “Take notice that the above appeal will be listed for hearing before the Supreme Court of Nigeria on Tuesday, August 25, 2020.
“And further take notice that in accordance with the Supreme Court rules, this notice is deemed sufficiently served on you if it is delivered on your information and communication gadgets.
“Further take notice that COVID-19 protocols shall be fully and strictly enforced. It’s only the counsel who are appearing and whose names are entered in the counsel list (not more than five counsel per appearance) will be admitted into the court and no more.”
The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, had in July reaffirmed the election of Bello.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had last year declared Bello, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), as the winner of the governorship poll, having won majority of votes cast and the spread threshold in the election.
However, four contestants and their parties, including Wada and the PDP, had disagreed with INEC and subsequently approached the Kogi State Election Petitions Tribunal to challenge the victory of Bello.
The other petitioners are the Actions People’s Party (APP); the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the Democratic People’s Party (DPP).
However, their petitions were all dismissed by the tribunal for lacking in merit.
Similarly, the Court of Appeal agreed that the cases of the appellants lacked merit and even dismissed some with cost against some appellants.
Still not satisfied, the appellants approached the apex court to set aside the judgments of the appellate court on the grounds that the Court of Appeal discarded evidence of rigging and violence in seven local government areas of the state.
The Court of Appeal in its unanimous judgment had held that the allegations of over-voting, multiple thumb-printing, and results falsification were not proved by the appellants.
In the ruling delivered by Justice Haruna Tsamani, the appellate court held that the appellants merely dumped documents on the tribunal without calling relevant witnesses to link the documents to the allegation of over-voting.
According to him, a party who alleges over-voting must tender the voter registers for the affected polling units and the results of the polling units, show how, without over-voting, the results would be in his or her favour.
In other judgments, the Court of Appeal held that the tribunal was right in dismissing the petitions of the DPP and APP over alleged unlawful exclusion and that of the SDP for failure to prove claims of electoral malpractices in the governorship election.
Although the decisions of the tribunal were unanimous in the petitions of APP, DPP and SDP, it was divided in the case of the PDP.
While the majority judgment delivered by Justice Kashim Kaigama favoured Bello, the minority judgment delivered by Justice Ohimai Ovbiagele held that there was evidence of electoral malpractices in seven LGAs of the state.
Ovbiagele subsequently upturned Bello’s victory and ordered a rerun in the seven affected local government areas of the state.
Meanwhile, THISDAY gathered that the seat of the Kogi State Government has shifted from Lokoja, the state capital, to Abuja as most officials of the state government have relocated to the federal capital ahead of today’s sitting of the apex court.
While the APC is confident that the apex court will affirm the judgments of the election petition tribunal and the Court of Appeal, the PDP is optimistic of victory at the apex court.
The state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Kingsely Fanwo, told THISDAY that the state government would not comment because the election dispute was still in court, adding, however, that the apex court should do justice.
“As a matter of policy and standards, we do not speak on matters that are before a competent court of jurisdiction. It is their responsibility to do justice to the case before the apex court,” he said.
However, a chieftain of APC in the state and a former commissioner, Mr. Tom Ohikere, told THISDAY that the ruling party was sure of a favourable judgment from the Supreme Court.
Ohikere said Bello won the election, adding that already the election tribunal and Appeal Court have also affirmed his victory.
But the state Publicity Secretary of PDP, Mr. Bode Ogunmola, told THISDAY that the Supreme Court will do justice by overturning the judgments of the tribunal and appeal court.
“As a party, we expect good judgment from the Supreme Court. Judiciary still remains the last hope of the common man. We hope that something good will come after all,” he said.