Kano governorship appeal: ‘Judiciary ‘ll redeem own image, sanction erring officials’

Nigeria’s judiciary would redeem its image over the clerical error recorded in the Appeal Court judgment of the Kano state governorship election, which sacked the state governor, Abba Kabiru Yusuf, Blueprint has gathered.

Also, there are indications that the top echelon of the judiciary has vowed to sanction any of its judicial officers found wanting in the whole saga, as findings by Blueprint reveals a lot of petitions have already flooded the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Idowu Ariwoola’s office.

The Kano State Governorship Election Tribunal had earlier sacked Abba Kabiru Yusuf of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) September 20, 2023, and declared Yusuf Gawuna of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as rightful winner of the March 18 governorship election in the state.

The State Election Petitions Tribunal, led by Justice Oluyemi Akintan Osadebay, had declared as invalid some 165,663 votes of Yusuf, who contested on the NNPP platform, because they were not signed or stamped by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

 The governor’s votes were then reduced to 853,939 while those of Gawuna, his APC rival, remained at 890,705.

But dissatisfied with the tribunal judgment, he approached the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja, which in its judgment delivered November 17, also upheld the verdict of the lower tribunal which had earlier sacked him as the governor of the state.

The uproar

However, a row broke out over the authenticity of the Certified True Copy (CTC) of the judgment, as the embattled governor and his party, following a leaked document, insisted they won the election, and asked the National Judicial Council (NJC) to investigate the verdict.

Also, the state’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Barrister Haruna Isah Dederi, came under heavy criticism over claims suggesting that the leadership of APC influenced the decision of the Judges who sacked Yusuf at the Appeal Court.

The national chairman of the NNPP, Abba Kawu Ali, said even though they were challenging the matter at the Supreme Court, they still wanted the NJC to, without delay, commence an investigation to unravel what happened in the matter.

On its part, the Kano chapter of the APC berated Dederi for allegedly impugning the integrity of the judiciary.

The party also petitioned the Disciplinary Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) over corruption allegation leveled against the judiciary by Dederi.

Appellate court clarifies

While the two concerned parties and their members threw tantrums at one another over the CTC of the judgment, the Chief Registrar of the Court of Appeal, Umar Bangari, clarified that there was no contradiction in the court’s judgment on the Kano state governorship election.

Bangari, according to a statement issued in Abuja to clarify the error, had said what happened in the judgment’s Certified True Copy was a clerical error, and declared that it did not in any way invalidate or change the findings and conclusion of the court on the matter.

He drew the attention of newsmen to Order 23 Rule 4 of the Court of Appeal Handbook which empowers the court to correct any clerical error once detected by the court or any of the parties in the matter.

The statement partly read: “What happened in the part of the judgment is just a mere clerical error that ought not to draw any issue. The court is empowered to correct such clerical errors and would be done as appropriate. The clerical error would be rectified once parties in the matter file formal application to that effect.”

How CTC’s error occurred

But speaking with Blueprint, an insider at the apex court, said a member of the three-member appeal panel, led by Justice M. A. Adumein, had earlier written a dissenting judgment, which did not align with the lead judgment.

Other members of the panel were Justice Bitrus Sanga and Justice Lateef Ganiyu.

The source explained that at the conference to review their positions on the tribunal’s verdict ahead of the appellate court’s  judgment date, one of the two remaining panel members who had earlier written his dissenting judgment, consequently agreed to majority judgment.

The source said: “One of my Lord Justices whose dissenting judgment was already written for presentation at the panel’s conference,  was convinced upon listening to the judgment of the two others, and consequently  agreed with the majority judgment, thus making it a unanimous judgement at the end of the conference.

“But unfortunately, the earlier dissenting member of the panel who now had agreed with his two other colleagues, forgot  to delete the last paragraph of the dissenting version he had earlier written, even as the body  of that judgment perfectly agreed with the two other judgments.

“However, in error, he never touched the concluding part of the judgment, which reads: In the circumstances, ‘I resolve all the issues in favour of the appellant (Yusuf). The judgment of the Tribunal in petition between the APC vs INEC & 2 others delivered on September 20, 2023, is hereby set aside. The sum of N1 million is hereby awarded as costs in favour of the appellant (Yusuf) and against the 1st respondent, (APC)’.

“So, you could see how it happened. It would have been a different thing entirely if the body had agreed with the concluding part, then it would be clear to say it was the judgement. This is a grievous error and the NJC which is responsible for the discipline of judges would do everything to redeem its image and sanction whosoever that must have been involved in this embarrassment after the various procedures on petitions are diligently carried out. There are petitions before the CJN on this matter and even related others.  The NJC has its rule, and it will be justly followed.’’ 

…Plateau

On the PDP’s cases in Plateau state, the top official appealed to Nigerians to be wary of the politicians planning to drag the country into anarchy.

“The case in Plateau state, at whatever level and for whatever reason, the judiciary does not treat disobedience to the court order, otherwise called contempt of court, with levity.

“It is unfortunate that people failed to see this but rather chose to condemn various judgments even when they have not read them. The media must be wary of the plot by some politicians to drag the nation into anarchy because once the court is pulled down, this is what is bound to happen. The law is very clear, and we must not shy (away) from saying it as it is. Therefore, the judiciary is to be heard not to be seen. That is why it is difficult to join issues with those critics. I wish the body could open up on some things, but the ethics of the job won’t allow that.

“For instance, Obi (Peter, LP presidential candidate,) who is now crying foul, has suddenly forgotten that it was the judiciary that restored his mandate as Anambra state governor. They commend when it favours them and condemn when it goes the other way. The media must change that narrative so the nation is not plunged into anarchy,” the top official further said.

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