Tribunals’ verdicts: Win some, lose some for all parties as more governors know fate this week

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About six months after Nigeria’s 2023 general elections, the dust is yet to settle in the political landscape of the country, writes TIMOTHY AGBOR

There is still anxiety in many parts of the country as no fewer than 19 governors await verdicts of the tribunals handling governorship election petitions in their respective states.

The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in Lagos will on Monday (today) deliver judgment in the suits challenging the election of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

The Labour Party’s governorship candidate, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour and the People’s Democratic Party’s governorship candidate, Olajide Adediran, popularly known as Jandor, are challenging the victory of Sanwo-Olu at the March 18 governorship election.

The Justice Arum Ashom-led panel communicated this message to parties on Saturday.

On August 12, lawyers in the petitions adopted their final written addresses before the tribunal.

The Independent National Electoral Commission had declared Sanwo-Olu of the All Progressives Congress winner of the March 18 governorship election.

Sanwo-Olu had won the election by a landslide, defeating Rhodes-Vivour of the Labour Party, who came second.

The Lagos State Governor polled 762,134 votes to beat Rhodes-Vivour, who scored 312,329 votes. Jide Adediran (Jandor) of the PDP came third, polling 62,449 votes.

President Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress had scaled through the first hurdle in his struggle to retain occupancy of the Aso Rock Villa as the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal dismissed the petitions of the PDP and the Labour Party alongside those of their candidates, Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi respectively against the president’s election.

There were about 552 petitions challenging the outcome of the February 25 National Assembly, and March 18 governorship and State Assembly polls before various tribunals, after the general polls.

Out of the 28 states where the governorship elections were held, the results of the polls announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission are being contested in no fewer than 25 states.

The 25 states where gubernatorial election outcomes are being challenged include Lagos, Ebonyi, Sokoto, Kano, Delta, Akwa-Ibom, Kaduna, Enugu, Rivers, Venue, Nasarawa, Ogun, Gombe, Zamfara, Plateau, Bauchi, Cross-Rivers among others.

Judgments have been delivered in no fewer than seven governorship petition cases handled by gubernatorial tribunals.

The states affected are Kano, Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Benue, Zamfara, Plateau, Bauchi and Cross River. The victories of these embattled state governors in the March 18 gubernatorial elections were upheld by the tribunals except for Kano State.

While the tribunals are expected to deliver their verdicts on or before September 22 for National Assembly petitions, the governorship petitions are expected to wrap up their tribunal judgement on or before October 11

The Kano Governorship Election Petition Tribunal nullified the victory of Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf of the New Nigeria Peoples Party and pronounced Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna of APC as the lawful winner of the poll.

Some of the other states that judgements have been reserved by the tribunals include Ebonyi, Lagos, Sokoto, Delta, Kaduna, Rivers, Nasarawa, Ogun and Gombe among others.

Findings by The Point revealed that governors involved in the cases where judgments have been reserved are nervously waiting to know their fate from this week.

Although no specific dates had been declared by tribunals to give judgements in the reserved cases, sources revealed that the governorship petition tribunals sitting in these states are putting finishing touches to their verdicts and would begin to announce them this week.

While declarations by the judges may vary from state to state, what is certain is that all judgements will be delivered on October 11 following the 180-day (six months) timeline provided by the Electoral Act for election petitions to be decided.

While the tribunals are expected to deliver their verdicts on or before September 22 for National Assembly petitions, the governorship petitions are expected to wrap up their tribunal judgement on or before October 11.

The tension that the nullification of the election of the Kano State Governor, Yusuf, generated is yet to be completely doused even as the sacked governor has approached the appellate court.

National Assembly election petitions’ verdicts so far

From the verdicts given so far as regards petitions arising from the National Assembly elections, no fewer than seven senators and 23 House of Representatives members had their elections nullified. Three of the senators were sacked out rightly while four of them will face supplementary polls.

In the House of Representatives, 18 members were sacked and there will be seven supplementary polls.

Among the nullified polls, APC has five, PDP 14, Labour Party 6, and NNPP 2. Conversely, APC gained seven seats, PDP 5, LP 2, and All Progressives Grand Alliance 1.

Some of the reasons the tribunals gave for annulling the elections included invalid nomination, forged names, forged certificates, falsification of results, exclusion of results, non-recording of results, and non-conduct of elections in some polling units.

While some tribunals ordered INEC to conduct supplementary elections in some senatorial districts, others ruled that the Certificates of Return issued to the sacked lawmakers should be withdrawn and presented to the petitioners that were declared winners by the courts.

Upset verdicts from the National Assembly tribunals

Senator Emmanuel Udende of the APC lost his Benue North East seat to Senator Gabriel Suswam of the PDP. Also, Napoleon Bali of the PDP lost his Plateau South seat to Labour and Employment Minister, Simon Lalong of the APC. Senator Abubakar Ohere of the APC lost his Kogi Central seat to Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan of the PDP.

Senators that will face supplementary polls

Senator Thomas Onowakpo, APC, Delta South;
Senator Ede Dafinone, APC, Delta Central;
Senator Jibrin Isah Echocho, APC Kogi East and Senator Fred Agbedi, PDP, Bayelsa.

Sacked Reps members:
Muktar Umar Yerima, NNPP, Kano; Yusuf Datti, NNPP, Kano; Seyi Sowunmi, LP, Lagos; Thaddeus Atta, LP, Lagos (rerun); Francis Wave, APC, Delta; Ngozi Okolie, LP, Delta (regained seat at Appeal court); Munachim Alozie, LP, Abia; Emeka Nnamani, LP, Abia; Ibe Osonwa, LP, Abia; Amobi Ogah, LP, Abia; Ikenga Ugochinyere, PDP, Imo; Jonas Okeke, PDP, Imo; Sunday Nnamchi, LP, Enugu; Peter Gyendeng, PDP, Plateau; Musa Bagos, PDP, Plateau; Beni Lar, PDP, Plateau; Aminu Chindo, PDP, Katsina; Ismail Dalha, PDP, Katsina; Joshua Gana, PDP, Niger (rerun); Adamu Yakubu, PDP, Jigawa (rerun); Mohammed Jamilu, PDP, Katsina (rerun); Iliyasu Abubakar, PDP, Katsina (rerun) and Shittu Ibreaheem, APC, Oyo (rerun).

APC, PDP, LP, NNPP, SDP jittery as analysts predict more staggered elections
Checks by The Point showed that anxiety is still ripe within the ranks of the major political parties including the APC, PDP, LP, NNPP and SDP as various tribunals deliver more judgment from this week
The fear follows the uncertainty surrounding how the tribunal might rule based on the evidence and counter evidence presented by the parties in the suits, which could lead to the election being annulled, upturned or upheld.

Following the recent trend of verdicts by the tribunal which have affected all political parties, observers believe that the judgment so far and more to come may pave the way for more off-season polls and also begin a possible reshaping of the political map with regards to party dominance in the country.

The President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Chris Isiguzo, while speaking on the topic: “Off-Season Elections: Journalists as Responsible Watchdogs,” at the 3rd Annual Governor Yahaya Bello (GYB) Seminar for Nigeria’s Political and Crime Correspondents and Editors in Abuja, expressed concern that interest and participation of stakeholders may be limited to the states that staggered polls would be held.

He urged journalists to always mobilise to states where off-season elections would be conducted, arguing that the chances of irregularities would be high if journalists, observers and other essential electoral stakeholders absent themselves from the exercise.

Isiguzo said there are eight states presently where off-cycle polls are held, noting that more states may still join the time tribunal and the Supreme Court finish delivering their judgment on the present petitions.

How parties won, lost in 28 states

After the heated governorship race in 28 states, NNPP won Kano State. The ruling APC however won in 15 states, including seven re-elections for Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq (Kwara), Inuwa Yahaya (Gombe), Mai Mala Muni (Yobe), Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa), Babagana Zulum (Borno).
On the other hand, the party secured wins for eight new candidates. They are Umar Namadi (Jigawa), Ahmed Aliyu Sokoto (Sokoto), Dikko Radda (Katsina), Uba Sani (Kaduna), Bassey Otu (Cross River), Mohammed Bago (Niger), Hyacinth Alia (Benue), and Francis Nwifuru (Ebonyi).

For PDP, there were eight victories, including two returning governors: Seyi Makinde (Oyo) and Bala Mohammed (Bauchi).

Six first-term governors were also elected on the platform of the opposition party, with the emergence of Umo Eno (Akwa Ibom), Siminialayi Fubara (Rivers), Kefas Agbu (Taraba), Caleb Mutfwang (Plateau), and Sheriff Oborevwori (Delta).

In a stunning upset, Dauda Lawal of the PDP unseated Zamfara State Governor Bello Matawalle (APC), while Labour Party’s Alex Otti defeated the PDP which has ruled Abia State since 1999.