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Yobe: PDP vs APC legal battles continue after tribunal ruling

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC), in Yobe State, appear set to continue their legal battles, after the APC has…

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC), in Yobe State, appear set to continue their legal battles, after the APC has won both the governorship election held in April and the case against its victory, filed by the PDP at the Yobe State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal in Abuja.

APC’s Ibrahim Gaidam won the governorship election in 16 out of the 17 local government areas of Yobe State, but Adamu Maina Waziri, the PDP gubernatorial candidate, challenged Gaidam’s victory at the elections petitions tribunal.
The tribunal sitting in Abuja had on October 21, 2015, dismissed the petition filed by Waziri challenging Gaidam’s victory.
Also, a Federal High Court in Abuja, November 16, also dismissed a suit filed by an APC governorship aspirant, Engr. Mustapha Yunusa Mai Haja, challenging the academic qualification of governor Gaidam, on grounds of jurisdiction. Waziri and his party, PDP, had hoped to profit from Mai Haja’s suit.
At the tribunal, Waziri, through his counsels, Niyi Akintola (SAN) and Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN), alleged non-compliance with Sections of the Electoral Act 2010, during the election.
Waziri also alleged that there was voter intimidation, over-voting and some community leaders, in some local governments, scared voters against voting for the PDP.
The petition further alleged corruption, especially against the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), adding that the aide-de-camp to the governor had sought to bribe the REC, Abu Zarma, to influence the results of the election.
But defence counsels, Abeny Mohammed, Yusuf Ali, E. O. Sofunde and Titus Ashaolu, all Senior Advocates of Nigeria, have refuted the petitioners’ claims. They maintained that some of the replies of the petitioners were filed outside the five days allowed under Section 16 (1) of the Electoral Act, 2010.
They also contended that the petitioners’ allegation of bribery was not within the realm of what happened at the election. They explained that the REC in his letters directed the banks to reverse the sums on April 9, which he understood were an attempt to bribe him, adding that there is no evidence linking the allegation of bribery either to governor Gaidam or the outcome of the election.
In the judgment delivered on October 21, the chairman of the tribunal, Justice Mojisola Dada, held that the petitioners failed to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, the allegation of substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act, 2010, in the election of Gaidam as Yobe State governor.
In dismissing the petition, the judge stated that the allegation of corruption against the INEC REC was not proved, adding that the irregularities complained about by the petitioners were not substantial enough to vitiate the outcome of the election.
“Finally the allegation of financial inducement and corrupt practices are not proved,” he said, adding: “There is also no proof that the 4th respondent compromised or subverted the electoral process in favour of any of the parties as alleged by the petitioners.”
In his response to the ruling of the tribunal, Gaidam said it was “victory for democracy and for the people of Yobe State.” He called on the people of the state to join hands with his administration to move the state forward.
But dissatisfied, the PDP appealed the ruling. In its notice of appeal dated November 11, 2015, the PDP listed nine grounds to challenge the tribunal’s verdict. The party contends that the REC benefitted from the said sum to change the result of the election.
Another suit relating to the Yobe governorship election issue, which the PDP assumes will favour it, is the eligibility suit filed by Ayuba Sabo and Ahmed Abubakar challenging the eligibility of Gaidam, based on the term limit imposed by Sections 180 (1); 187 (1); 191 (1) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed has fixed the case for definite hearing on November 25 to enable governor Gaidam and INEC to respond.
In the suit challenging the governor’s academic qualification earlier dismissed by the Federal High Court, Mai Haja had contended that Gaidam made false declaration in INEC Form CF 001. But the court, while dismissing the suit, described him as a “busybody.”
Justice Adeniyi Ademola ruled that the issue of candidacy is an internal affair of a political party which the court lacks the powers to entertain.
What happens to the cases on appeal remains to be seen but observers are of the opinion that these and many other election litigations help to deepen and enrich Nigeria’s jurisprudence.

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