Appeal Court affirms Yahaya Bello’s election as Kogi governor

The Court of Appeal in Abuja on Saturday affirmed the election of Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State of the All Progressives Congress (APC) after dismissing four appeals challenging his victory at the November 16, 2019 poll.

In separate judgments, all of which were unanimous, the five-man panel of the court led by Justice Adamu Jauro dismissed the four appeals for lacking in merit.

The appeals dismissed were filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Actions People’s Party (APP), the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the Democratic People’s Party (DPP).

Among the four appeals, the one filed by the PDP along with its governorship candidate, Musa Wada, was the most keenly fought.

The three-man of the Kogi State Governorship Election Tribunal which sat in Abuja was unable to reach a unanimous decision in the case, as a result of which it delivered a split judgment of two-to-one to affirm Bello’s election on May 23, 2020.

The majority judgment of the Justice Kashim Kaigama-led three-man tribunal affirmed Bello’s election, while the minority judgment by Justice Ohimai Ovbiagele upturned Bello’s victory and ordered a rerun in seven local government areas of the state.

The PDP and Wada subsequently filed 22 grounds of appeal against the majority judgment of the tribunal.

Delivering judgment in the appeal on Saturday, the Court of Appeal held that the allegations of over-voting, multiple thumb-printing, and results falsification were not proved by the appellants.

Justice Haruna Tsamani who delivered the lead judgment held that the appellants merely dumped their documents on the tribunal without calling relevant witnesses to link the documents to the allegation of over-voting.

He noted that a party alleging over-voting must tender the voter registers for the affected polling units and the results of the polling units, show how, without over-voting, the results would be in his or her favour.

Earlier dismissing the appeal by APP, Justice Mohammed Shiaibu, who delivered the lead judgment of the Court of Appeal in the party’s appeal, affirmed the May 22, 2020 verdict of the tribunal which had thrown out the party’s case of unlawful exclusion from the election.

Justice Oluwayemisi Williams-Daudu, who read the lead judgment on the DPP’s appeal, also affirmed the May 8, 2020 verdict of the tribunal by dismissing the party’s case of unlawful exclusion from the November 16, 2020 poll.

Justice Onyenkachi Otisi, in her lead judgment on the appeal by the SDP and its governorship candidate, Natasha Akpoti, affirmed the May 18, 2020 verdict of the tribunal.

The Independent National Electoral Commission had declared Bello of the APC as the winner of the November 16, 2019 election, defeating the first runner-up, Wada, by 216,518 votes.

The commission had declared that Bello polled a total of 406,222 votes, and Wada polled 189,704.

Aggrieved by the results declared by INEC, Wada and the PDP had filed their petition before the tribunal, alleging that Bello was not returned by the majority of lawful votes cast.

They added that the election was marred by corrupt practices and non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act in seven of the 21 local government areas in the state.

But the tribunal in its majority judgment of two against one delivered on May 23, 2020, dismissed the petition.

But dissenting, Justice Ohimai Ovbiagele in his minority judgment upheld the petitioners’ case by nullifying the results of the election in seven out of the 21 local government areas of the state.

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