Thursday, 30th November 2023

Curfew in Kano, jubilation in Abuja as tribunal sacks Governor Yusuf

By Murtala Adewale (Kano), Adamu Abuh and Ameh Ochojila (Abuja)
21 September 2023   |   4:11 am
After weeks of mudslinging by political parties in the state amid a pensive wait for the outcome of the dispute over the March 18 governorship election, the Kano State election petition tribunal...

Kano State governor Abba Yusuf

• NNPP to challenge ruling, calls it miscarriage of justice
• Yusuf imposes 24-hour curfew
• Avoid violence, conduct yourself peacefully, Ganduje, Gawuna urge residents
• APC leads prayer, vows to compensate owners of demolished structures
• Why Nigeria is among world’s most litigious countries, by CJN Ariwoola

After weeks of mudslinging by political parties in the state amid a pensive wait for the outcome of the dispute over the March 18 governorship election, the Kano State election petition tribunal, yesterday, declared Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the lawful winner of the governorship election in the state.

In a virtual judgment delivered by the three-man panel, led by Justice Oluyemi Akintan-Osadebay, the tribunal invalidated the election of Governor Abba Kabiru Yusuf of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).

There was heavy security around the tribunal as all access roads in and out of the court were barricaded. Journalists, who succeeded in gaining access to the court premises, were barred from going in with their phones and other gadgets.

After a long wait for the judges to arrive with no explanation about their whereabouts, Justice Akintan-Osadebay addressed the court via Zoom, announcing that the proceeding would be virtual.

It is unclear why the judges didn’t appear in court, but there have been allegations and counter allegations against the panel.

Recall that former Commissioner for Land and Physical Planning, Adamu Kibiya, had asked the judges to choose between their lives and their work while delivering judgment.

“People voted for us and some people are attempting to do injustice. We want to tell the judges that we will not accept this. Any judge that is willing to deprive us of our rights will regret it. Whatever will happen, we won’t care…,” he had said during a protest organised by NNPP members. His comment had triggered backlash, leading to Governor Yusuf sacking him.

But in a six-hour judgment, the tribunal declared that Governor Yusuf failed to show reason why the three grounds and prayers sought by the petitioner should not be granted.

APC had asked the court to determine whether Governor Yusuf was a member of NNPP and whether or not he was qualified to contest for the election.

Also, the petitioner insisted that the NNPP candidate ought not to be declared winner and returned elected because he failed to secure the lawful vote, adding that there were large-scale irregularities, including over-voting, violence, and other related electoral offences.

On the ground of qualification, the tribunal ruled that although membership is an internal affairs, which political parties reserved the right to determine who represent them, the court however averted that the opposition party equally has the right to challenge whether or not the candidate is qualified.

Justice Osadebay, therefore, ruled that membership registration obtained from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) clearly proves that Governor Yusuf did not comply with the electoral act, which required registration of membership 30 days before party primary.

On the issue of lawful votes, the tribunal held that about 165,663 illegal vote counts were unlawfully added in favour of the NNPP candidate, which spiked his total votes to 1,019,602. The court declared that when the unlawful count votes are deducted, Governor Yusuf should have been allotted 853,939 votes against the APC candidate who pulled 890,705 votes.

While declaring APC winner of the election, the court ordered INEC to withdraw the certificate of return from Governor Yusuf. Subsequently, the tribunal directed INEC to issue a fresh certificate of return to APC candidate, Gawuna as the duly elected winner of the election in Kano.

Reacting to the tribunal’s verdict, state chairman of NNPP, Hashim Suleiman Dongurawa, described the outcome as miscarriage of justice that would be strongly challenged at the higher court.

On his part, one of the lead counsels to APC and immediate past Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Musa Abdullahi Lawan, lauded the tribunal’s judgment, which he claimed represented the will of the people.

AMID violent demonstration that greeted the outcome of the tribunal, the state government has directed a 24-hour movement restriction to forestall further breakdown of law and order.

In letter Reference No: K/SEC/H/435/T.1/153 issued to the Nigeria Police command in Kano Wednesday evening, the state government ordered the 24 hours curfew effective from 6pm Wednesday, 20th September to 6pm Thursday, 21st September 2023.

In a statement signed by Commissioner of Police, CP Mohammad Usaini Gumel, the police said residents in the state are warned to comply with government directive henceforth. The CP noted that violators of the order will be arrested and made to face wrath of the law.

“In view of the Constitutional mandate of the Nigeria Police Force alongside the relevant Internal Security and Law Enforcement Agencies to preserve law and order in the State, the Kano State Police Command have mapped out strategies in that direction and call on the good people of the State to give the necessary confidence and support.

“Going forward, residents are called upon to note that combined security forces have already been dispatched across Kano, including the entry and exit points of the state to ensure enforcement and strict compliance of the curfew as communicated by the state.”

Hundreds of APC stalwarts thronged the Abuja residence of the National Chairman of the party, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, to celebrate the ruling.

Ganduje thanked Allah for providing an enabling environment for the judiciary to adjudicate on the APC petition fairly and in a transparent manner. The APC chief assured that under the Gawuna-led administration, there would be an atmosphere for businesses to flourish in Kano.

Gawuna, who described Ganduje as his mentor, also expressed gratitude to Allah for his victory at the tribunal. He pledged to sustain the developmental strides attained when Ganduje held sway in Kano, and to adhere to his campaign manifesto in repositioning Kano for sustainable growth.

In Kano, hundreds of APC supporters occupied the Central Eid ground to offer special prayers in gratitude of the tribunal outcome. Leading the jubilant APC loyalists was the state chairman, Abdullahi Abbas.

Abba used the occasion to promise residents, who lost their property to the demolition carried out by the NNPP that APC government will duly refund their loss when it assumes the mantle of leadership.

Abbas noted that Kano, as a commercial nerve centre of northern Nigeria, has been relegated to the background in the last three months of “illegal NNPP government” adding that Gawuna government will sanitise and restore hope to Kano.

“We are going to return all demolished shops to those who have lost their hard-earned wealth and property to Abba’s destruction. This is a promise, and we will certainly fulfill it,” he said.

MEANWHILE, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Olukayode Ariwoola, has lamented growing resort to litigation among Nigerians, rather than exploring avenues for alternative resolution of disputes.

Speaking at the Supreme Court, yesterday, while inaugurating nine newly appointed Justices of the Court of Appeal, Ariwoola said political cases, especially, were taking a “monumental toll on our dockets”. He described the situation as unpleasant; even as he stressed that no court in the land is spared the problem.

“We are constantly on our toes and the dockets are ever rising in response to challenges of the time,” Ariwoola said, adding: “This underscores the undisputed fact that Nigeria continuously ranks among the most litigious countries in the world.”

The CJN said he strongly believed it was high time Nigerians “began to imbibe the culture of less litigation and more of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, so that our courts can be freed from unnecessary burdens and depletion of human and material resources”.

Admonishing the justices, the CJN said: “The onus squarely rests on your Lordships to fasten your belts and roll up your sleeves to face the challenges head-on. You must redouble your pace to catch up with the expectations of litigants. As judicial officers, you have a divine mandate on earth that you must discharge with unveiled honesty and sincerity.

“You must give a good account of yourselves to justify your elevation to the Court of Appeal, so that you can subsequently earn an elevation to the Supreme Court, to further actualise your dreams.”

Ariwoola further cautioned the new justices not to run afoul of the law by shunning all forms of corruption and temptations. He reminded them that the oath administered on them is a solemn pledge and commitment to good conduct in the course of their adjudication, especially as senior judicial officers in the appellate court.

He added: “We are not here for long speeches but simply to realign your minds with what is expected of you at this very high and enviable level of adjudication. Many high profile cases would definitely come to you on appeal; and they may likely come in some juicy and irresistible gifts that are often intended to dent your reputation and integrity.

“I admonish Your Lordships to flee from such disguised temptations because your reputation and integrity matter much and count enormously in your rise to honour and fame in life.”