Supreme Court continues to deliberate on legal dispute over Kano governorship

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On Thursday in Abuja, the Supreme Court postponed rendering a verdict in the legal dispute over the governorship of Kano State following six hours of intense legal fireworks.

The NNPP and APC, together with their respective governorship candidates Kabir Yusuf and Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna, are at the heart of the legal dispute.

Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN requested that the Supreme Court vacate the decisions of the Appeal Court and the Tribunal during Thursday’s sessions.

In particular, Olanipekun begged the five-judge Apex Court bench presided over by Justice John Inyang Okoro to rule on the question of whether an INEC guideline could be used to overturn the election result of a candidate who had a lead of more than 100,000 votes.

According to the senior lawyer, this is the first instance of an election being declared null and void because the ballot papers did not have the required signature or stamp on the reverse.

According to him, the rules set out by INEC do not anticipate that a court would declare an election invalid because the commission failed to mark the back of the ballot.

The legal team representing the governor argued that the membership of the NNPP is an issue that occurred before the election and that the Court of Appeal does not have the authority to consider the case.

The appellant strongly urges your lordships to overturn the ruling of the lower courts, since it is extremely unfair, according to Olanipekun.

The validity or invalidity of the votes was not a point of contention. They presented the ballot to the bartender. Olanipekun said that no one had addressed it.

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Officials from INEC issued the ballot papers, so they were legitimate.

However, Chief Akin Olujimi, legal counsel for the All Progressives Congress (APC), argued that the Electoral Act requires INEC presiding officials to sign the back of ballot papers after the election is over, making them legitimate and valid.

The tribunal’s conclusions, according to Olujinmi, were that the ballot papers were not signed or dated at the back. As a result, the election in question was canceled.

The challenged ballot papers, he claimed, clearly show electoral irregularities.

Olujinmi claimed that Abba Yusuf’s name was missing from the NNPP membership roster when the matter of party membership came up.

The INEC legal team Senior Advocate Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud of Nigeria lent credence to Olanipekun’s claims.

The lower courts’ rulings, he argued, were incorrect.

In a move that violated the Electoral Act, Mahmoud claimed that the tribunal’s decision to dismiss Abba Yusuf was based on the testimony of a subpoenaed witness (PW32), which was not front-loaded with the petition at the tribunal.

“These were the ballots that were sent to us by INEC,” Mahmoud stated, adding that it was the responsibility of the party agents, not the voters, to verify the signatures on the ballots.

The argument put forth by INEC, according to him, is that the tribunal exceeded its authority by reviewing each ballot paper in secret rather than in public court.

Since Abba Yusuf’s name was submitted to INEC before to the election and his party membership card was presented as evidence to the tribunal, Mahmoud argued that membership in a political party is obviously an internal matter of a political party.

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According to Chief Adegboyega Awomolo SAN, the NNPP’s legal counsel, the APC’s legal team violated court norms by failing to identify which polling units were impacted throughout the Tribunal proceedings, even though ballot papers were cast at those locations.

According to Awomolo, unsigned ballots should not cast a shadow over the legitimacy of an election.

In my view, the people’s choice is at the heart of the election. Recounting the votes in the tribunal rooms was a mistake.

According to the NNPP’s legal team, not a single witness testified before the Tribunal about unstamped ballots.

He begged the Supreme Court to reinstate Abba Yusuf’s 165,165 voided ballots and confirm his victory.

The governor’s appeal was deferred for judgment by Justice Okoro after he heard arguments from both sides.

Over 160,000 votes were deemed invalid by the tribunal in September, who attributed this to absent signatures and stamps on the ballot sheets, therefore nullifying Yusuf’s election.

On the grounds of electoral misconduct, the APC had petitioned the Tribunal to overturn the election results.

Nonetheless, Yusuf took the tribunal’s ruling to the appellate court.

However, the candidate from the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) was unable to have his appeal against the ruling of the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, which had Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna, the candidate for the All Progressives Congress (APC), declared the victor of the March 18th state governorship poll, heard and rejected by the Abuja Court of Appeal.

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