Governor Yahaya Bello: Supreme Court begins delivery of judgment

The Supreme Court has begun delivery of judgment in the petitions filed against the victory of Governor Yahaya Bello of All Progressives Congress, APC in the November 16 Kogi governorship election.

Justice Uwani Musa Abba Aji is delivering the judgment on behalf of the seven man panel led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mohammed Tanko.

The judgment was prepared by Justice Iyang Okoro, ABBA Aji said before she began the delivery of the judgment

Justice Uwani Musa Abba Aji: reads Supreme Court judgment

The judgment is being delivered amidst tight security around the Supreme Court premises.

In the leading petition, the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Musa Wada and his party are challenging the re-election of Bello over claims that his election was marred by irregularities

The Supreme Court panel had fixed today for the delivery of judgment after parties in the appeals adopted their various written briefs last Tuesday.

Governor Bello’s victory was affirmed at the Kogi Governorship Election Petition Tribunal and the Court of Appeal on the grounds that Wada and his party failed to prove the allegations of electoral malpractices in their petition.

But Wada is hoping that the Supreme Court judgment will set aside the judgments of the tribunal and that of the court of Appeal and declare him the winner of the election or order a fresh poll.

While arguing for this position, the PDP candidate, through his counsels, told the panel of Supreme Court panel hearing his appeal last Tuesday that the judgments of the appellate court should be set aside on the grounds that the Court of Appeal discarded evidence of rigging and violence in seven local government areas of the state.

Other petitioners are the Actions People’s Party (APP); the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the Democratic People’s Party (DPP).

In her own petition, Natasha Akpoti of SDP asked for the annulment of the election on claims of exclusion by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

Though she participated in the election, the SDP candidate had argued that she didn’t have enough time to campaign because INEC initially disqualified her and she was only restored to the ballot few days to the election courtesy of a court order.

Their petitions were all dismissed by the tribunal for lacking in merit.

The Court of Appeal had also also agreed with the tribunal that the cases of the appellants lacked merit and even dismissed some with cost against some appellants.

In its judgment, the Court of Appeal held that the allegations of over-voting, multiple thumb-printing, and results falsifications pleaded were not proven by the appellants.

However, the PDP and Wada are hopeful that the Supreme Court will uphold the minority judgment of Justice Ohimai Ovbiagele which annulled the November election and ordered a rerun at seven local government areas of the State over allegation of vote rigging at the tribunal level.

The tribunal, in a majority judgment delivered by Justice Kashim Kaigama had upheld the election of Bello, as it said the petitioners failed to prove their allegations of vote rigging.

But in her minority judgment, Justice Ovbiagele held that there was evidence of electoral malpractices in seven LGAs of the state.

He therefore annulled the APC candidate’s victory in the election while ordering a rerun in the seven local government areas of the state.