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Nasarawa Guber: As Tribunal Dashes Maku, Umbugadu’s Hope



In this piece, DANJUMA JOSEPH takes a look at how the Nasarawa State governorship election petitions tribunal, in its recent ruling, upheld Governor Abdullahi Sule’s victory at the 2019 polls.

It was jubilation in and around Nasarawa State,  when the in March this year the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced the governorship results. The same thing also happened when the State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal on Saturday, 20th September, this year upheld the election of Governor Abdullahi Sule, as the winner of the March 9, governorship election in the state.

It would be recalled that INEC had declared Engr Abdullahi Sule, of All Progressives Congress (APC) as winner of the March 9, 2019 Governorship election with 327,229 votes to defeat his closest rival and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), David Umbugadu, who scored 184,281 votes, while Labaran Maku of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), polled a total of 132,784 votes.

The result indicated that APC won in 11 out of the 13 Local Government Areas of the state while Maku of APGA and Umar Aliyu Doma of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) won in Nasarawa Eggon and Doma Local Government Areas , respectively.

Not satisfied with the results as announced by INEC, candidates of the opposition parties, David Ombugadu of the PDP and Labaran Maku of APGA filed petitions before the tribunal which sat in Lafia.

Maku was the first to filed a petition challenging the victory of Abdullahi Sule, of the APC, the governor of Nasarawa state on the ground that the election did not meet the requirement of the law.

The APGA candidate had approached the tribunal seeking the cancellation of the March 9, 2019 governorship election in the state and asking for a fresh poll to be conducted. But Tribunal in its ruling read by the chairman, Abba Mohammed, threw out the petition on the ground that the petitioner filed application for pre-hearing before the stipulated time by the law.

Maku, a former minister of information, not satisfied with the tribunal ruling ran to the appeal court, but the appeal court also threw his case out. He headed to the Supreme Court, where he is challenging the ruling of the appeal court that threw out his case and prayed the apex court to allow his appeal.

The former minister, prayed the apex court to set aside the judgement of the lower court and order the retrial of his petition which was dismissed for hearing. He also asked the court to refuse the reasoning of the cross-appellant and consequently dismiss the cross appellant’s appeal.

Both the first and second respondents/cross-appellant also prayed the court to dismiss the appeal brought to it by Maku.

However, Justice Mary Peter-Odili, who led the panel of five justices in entertaining the suit reserved the judgment to a later date that will be communicated to the parties involved.

Similarly, the PDP and its governorship candidate, Umbugadu, had petitioned the Tribunal, asking it to nullify Engr Sule’s election for non compliance with the electoral law and guidelines.

But in a the judgement which lasted for about eight hours, the Tribunal ruled in favour of  Sule, declaring that the petitioner failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that there were massive irregularities in that election as alleged before the Tribunal.

Chairman of the panel Justice Abba Bello Mohammed, in his ruling dismissed the petitioner’s suit challenging the election of Governor Abdullahi Sule, for lacking in merit.

Justice Abba also said that the petitioner, did not provide any factual proof that the INEC was wrong in returning Governor Sule of the APC as duly elected.

According to him, the petitioner was supposed to prove his case beyond reasonable doubt for alleged over voting, disruption of votes, falsification of results among others.

He said, the petition was not in compliance with the provision of the 2010 electoral Act, hence he failed to establish acts for his claim.

The Tribunal further held that none of the witnesses who testified for the petitioner were able to establish facts or tender any documents that can substantiate the allegations made.

While reacting to the tribunal judgement, counsel to the Petitioner, Affiku Gambo, said they will make consultation before taking any further decision.

While speaking on behalf of the State governor, the deputy governor, Dr. Emmanuel Akabe, commended the tribunal for the judgement, stressing that the ruling has affirmed that people’s votes count.

“The tribunal ruling today affirmed our earlier victory at the polls and with this, we will settle down to work for the purpose we were elected and in the interests of the majority of the people of the state,” Akabe said.

The state chairman of the APC, Phillip Tatari Shekwo, described the verdict as a victory for democracy and called on opponents to join hands with Gov Sule, to move the state forward.

He also lauded the panel of judges for painstakingly delivering the judgment that reflected the will and aspirations of the people of the state, as he also commended the APC lawyers and INEC for a job well done as they stood for justice.

Speaker of the Nasarawa State House of Assembly, Alhaji Ibrahim Balarabe-Abdullahi, who spoke through his press secretary, Jibrin Gwamna, hailed the victory of Gov. Abdullahi Sule, at the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal.

“We are happy over the verdict as my people across the state voted massively for the governor during the election. His Excellency, Governor Abdullahi Sule’s victory at the tribunal is a victory for peace, unity, progress and development of the state,” he said.

On his part, former governor of the state, Senator Umaru Tanko Al-Amakura, who congratulated Governor Sule, on his victory, described the verdict as “victory for democracy”.

Al-Makura, who is theSsenator representing Nasarawa South, maintained that “The verdict is a further confirmation that Governor Sule, is the people’s choice”, as he admonished the petitioners to “accept the victory of the people’s governor in the polls and the affirmation of the tribunal as the will of God and the desire of the people of Nasarawa State.”

But the state’s secretary of the PDP, Alhaji Adamu Ninga, who expressed dissatisfaction and disappointment with the tribunal judgment, said it was “a clear miscarriage of justice”

The PDP scribe maintained, “Nasarawa state People’s Democratic Party-PDP, received with shocked the verdict of the governorship election petition tribunal, the Party described the tribunal judgment which validated the election of Governor Sule, as duly elected as a clear miscarriage of justice and judicial somersaults, because the tribunal has failed to follow laid down judicial process.

“As a party, we were expecting a more transparent judicial process in line with the Nigerian justice system but as a law abiding Party and its leadership, even though we are not comfortable with the verdict of this tribunal, we respect its decision and outcome. But we shall immediately approach the appeal court against this miscarriage of justice. We are appealing to all our members to remain calm and law abiding while we do the needful legally.” Ninga said.

However, the Zenith Labour Party-ZLP in Nasarawa State in a statement by its chairman, Mr. Cletus Ogah, congratulated Gov Sule, saying his Party is “more determined than ever before to serve as the third eye in making sure nothing but the best in governance is given to the peaceful and good people of our dear state.”

ZLP called on the governor to “As a matter of urgency settle down and remain in the State so as to address major areas of governance the State needs at this time. Our city and urban roads need urgent attention, this is apart from the security challenges that has continue to bedevil the State almost on daily basis”, Ogah said.