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Kaduna Tribunal Upholds Gov. Sani’s Election Victory After Confusing Split Judgment

Uba Sani

Kaduna State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal has on Thursday upheld the March 18 election of Uba Sani of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

To its end, it dismissed the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Isah Mohammed Ashiru against Governor Sani.

The three-man panel via Zoom affirmed Sani’s victory on technical grounds, and in a two against one dissenting verdict, ruled against Ashiru for premature filing of the application for pre-hearing.

The tribunal led by Victor Oviawie said the petition is thus considered abandoned as argued by Uba’s lawyers.

However, the tribunal dismissed Uba’s other objection that the petition itself was filed outside the legally allowed 21 days after the governorship election.

On the merit of the case, the tribunal held that if the petition had not been dismissed on technical grounds, it would have ordered a supplementary election in 22 polling units within 90 days.

Affirming the ruling of the tribunal, Mohammed Lawal, one of the counsels of the PDP, admitted that the opposition party filed its pre-hearing late.

“What actually happened was that APC raised an objection about our pre-hearing petition that we filed out of time. But the position of the Electoral Act is that the tribunal must go into the nitty gritty,” Lawal said.

“Now they found that there is the need for rerun in 22 polling units in four LGAs.

“We cannot activate that as inconclusive unless we appeal against that decision that declared our petition abandoned. The final decision of the court has two arms, that is what confused people.

“One declared our petition as abandoned, the second decision declared the election inconclusive but, that inconclusive decision cannot be activated unless the decision declaring the petition abandoned is appealed against and set aside.

“So technically the tribunal declared the petition abandoned and dismissed it.”

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While the tribunal admitted that the PDP petition could have been successful on the merit of the case, it ruled that the pre-hearing was abandoned, which knocked it out technically.

Many had interpreted the explanation of the merit of the PDP’s case as the ruling declaring the election as inconclusive and calling for a rerun.

Reacting, the sitting Governor lauded the decision of the tribunal affirming his election.

Sani said the judgment was an “unequivocal affirmation of the popular mandate given to him by the people.”

“I am extremely delighted and humbled by the ruling of the Election Petition Tribunal affirming my victory in the 2023 Kaduna State Governorship Elections.

“I commend the tribunal for their thoroughness and lucidity. They have enriched our jurisprudence and practice of electoral democracy,” he stated.

Ashiru, on his part has said that the ruling would be appealed while appealing to his supporters to remain law-abiding.

He further assured the people of Kaduna that he would pursue the mandate they gave him to its logical conclusion.

“Given the ruling of the Kaduna state election tribunal, it has become necessary to share with our teaming supporters, the true position of the ruling.

“On the preliminary objection, the tribunal, based on the majority of 2:1 judges upheld the preliminary objection of the respondent to the effect that the application for pre-hearing was done prematurely i.e. before the service of the last set of petitioners’ reply to the 2nd respondent’s reply to the petition was served.

“However, the law enjoins the tribunal, as a trial court, to proceed to pronounce on the merit of the substantive suit so that in the event the court of appeal finds that the trial tribunal was wrong in its decision on the preliminary objection, it would have the benefit of pronouncing on the decision of the tribunal in the substantive matter.

“Accordingly, the trial tribunal finds merit in the aspect of the petitioner’s case relative to the margin of win between the two leading candidates.

“The tribunal by a split decision of 2:1 accordingly, nullified the election of the governor of Kaduna state, ordered that the Certificate of Return be retrieved and fresh elections be conducted in some polling units in 4 LGAs and the outcome thereof be reckoned with before the declaration of the winner of the governorship election in Kaduna state.

“I want to again thank the people of the state while urging them all to remain law abiding while we pursue the appeal process,” Ashiru said.