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The Kano State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal’s Decision: Some Quick Thoughts by Rabiu Gama

Sep 25, 2023 | 2023 Elections | 0 comments

Last night, I read the full Kano State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal judgement via Zoom from Wednesday. Here are my humble opinions.

I assume that anyone reading this knows the story behind the judgment. Nonetheless, clarity matters. To clarify, APC is the Petitioner and INEC, Abba Kabir Yusuf (AKY), and NNPP are the First, Second, and Third Respondents. The suit did not involve APC candidate Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna. The Tribunal correctly ruled that Gawuna cannot be a party before the Tribunal, citing Section 133 (1) of the Electoral Act, 2022 and judicial authorities.

NNPP and AKY lawyers did poorly. INEC’s lawyers did worse: they failed to prove that the election was conducted in accordance with the Electoral Act 2022, as alleged by the Petitioner (the APC). First Respondent INEC made a terrible and costly mistake by lazily relying on the Petitioner’s case weaknesses. Poor timing always costs a lot!

Since an appeal’s outcome depends on the lower court’s proceedings (the Tribunal in this case), I believe NNPP’s (AKY’s) chances of winning at the Court of Appeal may not be as good as many think. Unsurprisingly, NNPP’s lawyers failed to prove Abba AKY’s legitimacy as a party member during the 18th March Governorship Election. The Tribunal was kind enough to suggest ways to establish it, but they couldn’t.

However, I failed to understand why the Tribunal refused to apply “the principle of margin of lead” when it declared APC’s candidate, Nasiru Gawuna, the election winner even though it had already found and admitted that the number of cancellations was in the hundreds of thousands. At the same time, its final finding showed tens of thousands. I think the Tribunal should have ordered a re-run because the election was “inconclusive”.

The Tribunal appears to have ignored Section 63(2) of the Electoral Act, 2022 when it invalidated over 165,000 votes cast for NNPP/AKY because the ballot papers were neither signed nor stamped, meaning they did not carry the commission’s official mark (INEC). The Electoral Act allows the Presiding Office of a Polling Unit to count a ballot paper that is not signed or stamped as valid.

Overall, I find some of the Tribunal’s reasoning and conclusions legal based on the evidence. I disagree with the Tribunal’s disregard of Section 63(2) of the Electoral Act, 2022 and the principle of margin of lead.

Even though it is trite that nobody knows what a court of law will do, I strongly advise AKY’s supporters (of which I am not ashamed to admit I am one) to manage their hopes of success in the Court of Appeal. Because the odds seem frighteningly balanced, that scale could tip either way.

Now, the right thing to do is pray for a “legal miracle”—whatever that means. Some miracle might happen, hopefully in the Court of Appeal, as the Supreme Court rarely tempers with the concurrent findings of the Tribunal and Court of Appeal unless they are glaringly perverse or cause a miscarriage of justice.

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