The Election Tribunal's Update 2: 1st August 2008 (The 'Things Fall Apart' Edition) byMichael Egbejumi-David
Election Tribunals’ Update 2: 1 st August 2008
(The ‘Things Fall Apart’ Edition)
It is now 1 year and 3 months since the April 2007 elections. Below are some nationwide updates:
Abia: Theodore Orji (PPA) election was declared null and was voided back on March 3 this year. The Election Tribunal ruled that he did not resign his post as Chief of Staff (to Kalu) 30 days before the elections as specified by the law. Furthermore, the Tribunal also held that Orji and his deputy; Chris Akomas were both card-carrying members of the Ogwugwu Akpu deity - aka Okija Shrine. The Tribunal therefore pronounced Onyema Ugochukwu (PDP) winner of the election on those basis. Orji of course appealed and the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt commenced hearing the case only recently. Interestingly, Onyema Ugochukwu (whom the Tribunal actually awarded the election), his Party and INEC are similarly challenging at the Court of Appeal the decision of the Tribunal. Why are they doing this? The Tribunal ruled that Ugochukwu failed to prove that he scored majority of lawful votes cast at the election. The Tribunal only allowed two of his four prayers and insisted that the results tendered and which he relied upon to challenge the election of Orji were “hearsay.”
Abuja : Senator Jubril Wowo (ANPP) and House of Reps member Nasir Muhammad (ANPP) had both their elections nullified by the Tribunal. The reruns have come and gone. Emerging victorious were Sidi Ali (Senate) and Philip Adudu (House of Reps). They are both of the PDP. The FCT Minister, Aliyu Modibo was sighted going into INEC’s office at midnight of Election Day.
Adamawa: On February 26 Murtala Nyako had his election nullification confirmed by the Court of Appeal in Jos. Iwu’s INEC had since given him a near perfect victory at the rerun. His AC opponent, Ibrahim Bapetel did not win one local government area – not even his own! Nyako is on his way to a five-year first term as Governor. Furthermore, the Court presided over by Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa (you will remember her!) dismissed the case of Eileen Dali (ADC) challenging the election of Senator Jubril Aminu (PDP) on the premise that the ADC had withdrawn the case, even when its National Chairman, Okey Nwosu had informed the Court in writing that it had not.
Akwa Ibom: James Iniama (AC) governorship candidate’s appeal against the ruling of the Tribunal upholding the election of Godswill Akpabio (PDP) as governor has still not been heard. Iniama appealed on the ground that the Tribunal refused to admit in evidence the certified copy of the voter’s register, voter’s cards and the ballot papers used in the governorship election.
Anambra: All quiet on the Awka front after the Supreme Court threw out Obasanjo’s man-friday Andy Uba as governor because there was no vacancy to be filled in the first place. Uba lost his deposit. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court in July 2008 ruled that Charles Odedo, who won the Primaries but was substituted with Obinna Chidoka, was the rightful candidate of the PDP for the House of Representatives Idemili North and South Federal Constituency. Odedo was sworn-in in the House just a few days ago.
Bauchi: The PDP in Bauchi initially filed a petition to challenge the election of Isa Yaguda (ANPP) as governor. However, the PDP candidate, Nadada Umar disassociated himself from his Party’s petition. Quickly, the whole matter was “settled.” Emboldened, the Tribunal threw out all 120 petitions filed by the same PDP after the May local government elections. This time, the PDP has gone to the National Judicial Council (NJC) to seek redress.
Bayelsa: The Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt on April 15 2008 nullified the election of Timipre Sylva (PDP) as governor. Ebitimi Amgbare (AC) had appealed following the ruling of the Tribunal. The Court of Appeal agreed that no election took place in that State on April 14 2007. It was reported that VP Jonathan had a hand in that nullification as he is yet to properly assert his authority in his own home State. Anyway, INEC and Yar’Adua’s PDP had since ensured a near perfect victory for Sylva in the rerun.
Benue: In a decision that’s got all lawyers and everyone scratching their heads, the Court of Appeal sitting in Jos on July 16 th overruled the judgment of the Election Tribunal, which had ordered a by-election in two Local Government Areas (out of nine) within the senatorial zone. The Tribunal had ruled that Usman Abubakar (ANPP) had the highest number of valid votes cast in the April election. The result of the vote was 172,236 scored by Abubakar and 135,372 votes to Mark. David Mark on his part merely appealed that there were also irregularities in the other seven LGAs that Abubakar won. He sent the Senate on a long recess in anticipation of an election rerun. However, that Court of Appeal ruled that Mark won the whole thing!
Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa (remember her?) delivered this wacky judgment. Half of the judgement was typed and the other half, hand written. What was Mark’s take on all of this? “It is a victory for the judiciary and democracy.” Yes.
But there is an emerging pattern: Whenever a “big” electoral judicial verdict is due, the PDP would “concede” one election just before. This was the case when Yar’Adua’s own verdict was about to be delivered. Mark’s was conceded. Nyako in Adamawa was similarly conceded. When it was the turn of the Court of Appeal to deliver final judgement on Mark, Imoke in Cross River was conceded just the day before.
Meanwhile, the same Court of Appeal had since reconfirmed previously voided elections of Senator George Akume; House of Reps member Terngu Tsegba; the Speaker of the Benue State Assembly, Terseer Tsumba; and State Assembly member Terkar Mamwoo – all PDP.
Borno: The Court of Appeal in January upheld the re-election of ANPP’s Ali Sheriff as governor. Meanwhile, just recently, Sheriff invited all the State and Federal legislators in that State to a meeting where he informed them that none of them is wealthy enough to contest for the governorship seat when he vacates it in 2011. Those in the know say that he is prepping one of his wives to take over from him.
Cross River: Liyel Imoke (PDP) tenure as Cross River State governor was halted on July 14 th by the Court of Appeal sitting in Calabar when it cancelled his April 2007 election. The Court of Appeal ruled that the election did not comply with the 2006 Electoral Act and also cited gross irregularities during the polls. This was at variance with the Tribunal which earlier in January held that “the petitioners have not been able to prove the acts of non-compliance that have substantially affected the result of the governorship election". Curiously, the Calabar Court of Appeal ruled that INEC did not comply substantially with the provisions of the 2006 Electoral Act – exact opposite of what the Federal Court of Appeal in Abuja said in the Yar’Adua’s case.
Delta: The president of the Court of Appeal has simply refused to constitute an appeals panel to look into the case of Emmanuel Uduaghan (PDP) vs Peter Okocha (AC).
Ebonyi: The Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu dismissed the appeal filed by Ogbonnaya Onu (ANPP) challenging the election of Martin Elechi (PDP) as governor. The Court said Onu’s appeal lacked merit as he was unable to prove that no elections took place in the State.
Edo : Same as Delta. Adams Oshiomhole (AC) has resorted to going to beg Yar’Adua in Abuja to help him actualise his mandate.
Ekiti: Amazingly, the Tribunal in this State hasn’t delivered on anything at all. Its Chairman is Justice Usman Bukar Bwola. Other members are: Fati Imam, Doris Okuwobi, Felix Erhonsele, and Ugochukwu Ogakwu.
Enugu : July 11 2008, Gov. Sullivan Chime (PDP) appeal against the Tribunal judgement back in January nullifying his election was successful. The Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu unanimously ruled that the nullification of Chime's election on the grounds of non-compliance with the Electoral Act and election irregularities by the Tribunal was a gross miscarriage of justice. It held that the irregularities “were not caused” by Chime, and therefore were not enough proof to nullify the election. Chime on his part promptly declared “no winner, no vanquished.” The members of Chime’s cabinet who were in court for the ruling gave the game away much too early as they arrived wearing big smiles and exchanging high-fives even before court proceedings got underway.
Gombe: Having lost his case at the Tribunal, the AC candidate, Abubakar Hashindu also lost at the Appeal Court in Jos on June 5 his challenge of Danjuma Goje (PDP) as governor. The court threw out his case as incompetent because it was filed at the Tribunal one day after the statutory 30 days allowed.
Imo: The Tribunal upheld the election of Ikedi Ohakim (PPA) as governor. Ararume’s otherwise strong challenge was dismissed as the Tribunal held that he could not “convincingly prove” that the manipulation, irregularities and violence that accompanied the election favoured Ohakim. This Tribunal set a new precedence when it allowed INEC to file and present what it called “further results” sheets after the petitioner and two of the defendants (including INEC!) had closed their cases. Ararume’s motion for extension of time to file an appeal to the Appellate Court in Port Harcourt was thrown out on June 17 th. For his troubles, N20,000 cost was awarded against him.
Meanwhile, there had been reports of how money lavishly changed hands in this whole matter. It was reported that the members of the Tribunal were paid N650 million through Senator Adamu Aliero, the former governor of Kebbi State who is a relation of Tribunal chairman, Justice Ibrahim Mairiga. What is undeniable is that Senator Aliero visited Imo State several times during the Tribunal proceeding.
Jigawa: The ANPP’s gubernatorial candidate, Mohammed Kirikasama decided not to challenge PDP Sule Lamido’s victory for “personal reasons”.
Kaduna : The Tribunal upheld the election of Namadi Sambo (PDP) as governor. ANPP’s Sani Sha’aban presented detailed evidence of results certified and authenticated by INEC that showed that he won in 20 out of the 23 local governments in the State. Still, his petition was dismissed as he was told that there was no correlation between his witnesses’ testimonies and his written briefs. So there! Sha’aban has appealed.
Kano: The Court of Appeal sitting in Kaduna on April 10 citing “lack of merit” dismissed the petition filed against the election ANPP’s Ibrahim Shekarau as governor. (Shekarau it was who repeatedly said just a couple of years ago that it is wise to sacrifice a few number of children to polio now than to endanger a whole generation in the future).
Katsina: Nura Khalid (ANPP) appeal against the judgment of the Tribunal upholding the victory of Ibrahim Shema (PDP) as governor was dismissed by the Court of Appeal sitting in Kaduna April 21. Something funny happened here. The appeal was heard and a date fixed for judgment. Curiously at that point, the appellant asked to withdraw the case. The Court however balked and claimed that the withdrawal application did not meet its rules. Justice Zainab Bukachulwa(remember her?) then dismissed the case. Meanwhile, the PDP has lodged a complaint at the NJC against the four Tribunal judges. The Party claimed the judges “allowed themselves to be compromised”.
Kebbi: Gov Saidu Dakingari (PDP) had his election upheld by the Court of Appeal on April 11 th. The State Election Tribunal had previously nullified his election and ordered a fresh one. One of the judges sitting at appeal was courageous enough to dissent from the lead judgment and held that that the appeal ought to be dismissed as it lacks merit. Perhaps that judge was not aware that Dakingari is Yar’Adua’s son-in-law. It was reported that the lead justice who read the judgement, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa (remember her?) of the Court of Appeal (Jos Division), broke down in tears at the verdict forced on them.
This was a dangerously bizarre instance of inherent contradiction and double standard where logic and justice was stood on its head in broad daylight as the Appeal Court upheld Dakingari (Yar’adua’s son-in-law) election while in the same breath, the same Court ordered for a fresh election in Sokoto by annulling that of Aliyu Wammako. You see, Dakingari was substituted for another person as the governorship candidate of the PDP on February 5 2007, while his membership card of the party was dated February 10. An exact similar situation held in Sokoto; but in that case, earlier, the same Court, the same judge, ruled that “a candidate must spend a minimum of 2 years” in a Party before he/she can represent that Party in an election.” It was alleged that a night before the judgement, the president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Umaru Abdullahi and first lady Turai Yar’Adua were with Justice Bulkachuwa far into the night.
Kogi: Ibrahim Idris (PDP) has since very comfortably won the election rerun since he lost his appeal at the appellate court back in early February this year. His victory was so perfect even Abubakar Audu the ANPP governorship candidate could not win his own local government. Idris was the first governor to be blessed with tenure elongation.
Kwara: The Tribunal sitting in Ilorin on July 16 upheld the election of Bukola Saraki (PDP) as governor. The Tribunal initially held this case in abeyance for almost a year; but once it got going, it steamrolled everything in its path. Bukola’s own sister, Miss Oyinkansola Saraki (PPA) was actually one of the petitioners against him. Bukola described the Tribunal’s verdict as “an act of God.” Yes; God is a very patient fellow.
Lagos : The litigations here were cleared up quite early. Babatunde Fashola (AC) victory as governor was upheld. In fact, the PDP candidate, Musiliu Obanikoro lost interest as soon as he got nominated for an ambassadorial post.
Nasarawa: The Tribunal on February 12 upheld the election of Aliyu Doma (PDP) as governor. It dismissed the petition of the ANPP candidate Solomon Ewuga claiming it lacked “credibility.” Ewuga had tendered in evidence an NTA video tape, but the Tribunal held that the tape actually showed that the election was conducted peacefully. The Tribunal also rejected the report of the UK forensic expert, Ronald Cook because it said Cook did not attach “relevant documents of his qualification” to the report.
Niger : The election Tribunal on June 9 upheld the election of Babaginda Aliyu (PDP) as governor. Aliyu had been dragged to the Tribunal by David Umaru of the ANPP. Umaru was told that his petition was “structurally defective.”
Ogun: This Tribunal had earlier struck out the petition of Ibikunle Amosun (ANPP) challenging the election of Gbenga Daniel (PDP) as governor on technicalities. Amosun did not indicate on his petition papers his party, age, etc. T he Tribunal also upheld the argument of Daniel’s lawyers that the petition was defective because Amosun testified that he was a voter and a candidate in the governorship election; saying the dual capacity was confusing. But the Court of Appeal sitting in Ibadan set aside the Tribunal's judgment and returned Amosun's petition to the same Tribunal for re-trial. In its judgment, the Court of Appeal said that the supposed confusion in the identity of Amosun, as related to his petition, "only existed in the imagination of the Tribunal members." Amosun, meanwhile, is calling for a fresh Tribunal to hear his petition. That’s where things are since February.
Ondo: The Tribunal finally delivered it judgement on 25 July 2008. It not only nullified Olusegun Agagu’s (PDP) election, it pronounced, Olusegun Mimiko (LP) the dully elected governor. Agagu of course has appealed. Unfortunately for Mimiko, it is the Court of Appeal in Benin that is slated to handle the case.
In Ondo State, the system seemed to have worked. Between them, the two Election Tribunals sitting in the State nullified 15 PDP members’ election: 7 in the State House of Assembly, 6 in the House of Representatives, 1 in the Senate, and the Governor’s. In the 26 seat House of Assembly, the PDP had 16 seats but has now lost 7 of these including that of the Speaker.
Osun: Where does one begin with this one? A magazine (TheNews) provided a very detailed log of phone and text message exchanges (of more than 100 times – including in between Tribunal sessions!) between judges of the Tribunal - specifically, its chairman Justice Thomas Naron and Justice Joe Ekanem and Kunle Kalejaiye, the lead counsel to Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola. Following this publication, the Tribunal hurriedly reconvened on July 16 and promptly delivered a judgement upholding Oyinlola’s (PDP) election. It declared that the petition against Oyinlola “failed in its entirety.”
This Tribunal earlier granted the petitioner, Rauf Aregbesola (AC) leave to present a forensic expert (the same man who was able to show that in Ondo State, people like Mike Tyson, Cecilia Ibru, Mohammed Ali, Don King, etc voted). However, the Tribunal changed its mind in midstream and refused to allow the testimony – after another phone call from Kunle Kalejaiye. Kunle Kalejaiye is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) folks. You would have to wonder how much money these judges collected in Osun. In fact, the less said about this case, the better.
Oyo: This Tribunal on March 17 returned a majority decision – with one dissenting judge – upholding Alao-Akala’s (PDP) election as governor. They claimed that even though the petitioner was able to prove that there were massive irregularities in 309 voting units (i.e., about 200,000 voters), even though INEC testified that most of the results sheets were not signed and votes were over allocated and over written on result sheets, all that does not invalidate the result of the election and voters were not disenfranchised! The Tribunal also dismissed all allegations of intimidation, thuggery and violence, holding that the petitioner failed to prove that beyond reasonable doubt. Former Attorney-General, Chief Richard Akinjide pronounced the development a “demonstration of the rule of law.”
Plateau: The Court of Appeal sitting in Jos upheld the decision of the Tribunal as it confirmed the election of PDP’s David Jang's as governor. Pam Gyang (AC) appeal was dismissed because it was “devoid of merit." The same Court confirmed the nullification of the election of Senator Satty Gogwim (AC) representing Plateau Central senatorial zone because INEC illegally excluded Zainab Abdulmalik (DPP). A re-election was ordered.
River: Err…Supreme Court.
Sokoto: The Court of Appeal sitting in Kaduna nullified the election of Aliyu Wammako (PDP) as governor. Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa (remember her?) ruled that Wammako was not a duly registered member of the PDP as at the time he stood for election. Wammako was the ANPP candidate, but just a few weeks to the April 14 election, he defected to PDP and edged out Shagari Jnr who had already won the Party’s primaries and was already campaigning. The Election Tribunal had earlier upheld the election but Muhammadu Maigari appealed, praying the court that he is the authentic PDP candidate. Iwu’s INEC had since done the needful and conducted another outstanding election in which Wammako was swept back into office with almost 100% of the votes. (It’s all good; please see Kebbi State before).
Taraba: Danladi Baido of the PDP is challenging the election of Danbaba Suntai (also of the PDP) at the Court of Appeal because their Party substituted his name by with that of Suntai. This was done just eight weeks after Baido had won the primaries by a simple letter to INEC signed by Ojo Maduekwe and one other. That letter did not give any reason whatsoever– cogent or otherwise. But that wasn’t the end of the story. Baido actually initially accepted the “coup” and was appointed the Chief of Staff to Governor Suntai after the successful election. But a few weeks later, their relationship went sour and Baido resigned his post and headed for the court as he remembered he had a mandate to legally pursue.
Yobe: Mamman Ali (ANPP) had his election upheld by the Court of Appeal sitting in Jos. Adamu Waziri's (PDP) appeal against the ruling of the State Election Tribunal, which had upheld Ali's election, was dutifully struck out. But Ali’s troubles are not quite over: He has another appeal against him pending at the same Court. This was filed by Usman Al-Bashir. You see, both Ali and Al-Bashir belong to the ANPP. Al-Bashir easily won the Party’s primaries, but his name magically appeared on OBJ/Ribadu’s list of “indicted politicians.” And presto, the ANPP substituted Al-Bashir’s name with Governor Ali’s.
Zamfara: The Court of Appeal sitting in Kaduna April 10 dismissed the petition filed against the election of Mahmud Shinkafi (ANPP) as governor. The DPP candidate who appealed was simply told that his case was “defective.” He was also upbraided for not citing any cases to back up his brief. For his troubles, a N40,000 cost was awarded against him.
At the last count, 13 Governors have had their victories pronounce null by the Courts.
The president of the Court of Appeal is one Justice Umaru Abdullahi from Katsina. He constitutes both Election Petition Tribunals and the Appellate Election Courts in all electoral cases. It is said that two other Justices were retired early to ensure he has a long reign in his current position. His retirement is similarly delayed. His wife was the Edo State Resident Electoral Commissioner at the beginning of Obasanjo’s administration. He was one of the nine judges of the appellate court that were named in a petition by Senators Uba and Abana of Anambra State in 2003, alleging corrupt handling of electoral appeal cases. While this allegation led to the dismissal of some of his colleagues, Justice Abdullahi was spared. For 2007, Abdullahi declared that all petitions alleging fraud against judges involved in elections petitions would have no merit. It was him who wrote the controversial Court of Appeal judgement (that was later overturned by the Supreme Court) that Iwu had the authority to disqualify validly nominated candidates before the 2007 elections.