Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Abuja division of the Court of Appeal on Monday reserved judgment on the appeal challenging the election of Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State.
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its governorship candidate in the November 2019 election in Kogi State, Engineer Musa Wada, lodged the appeal after losing out at the governorship election tribunal.
The Justice Adamu Jauro-led panel reserved judgment to a date to be communicated to parties.
This was after the adoption of briefs of arguments by parties to the appeal including Governor Bello, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The appeal is seeking to upturn the judgment of Kogi State Election Petition Tribunal delivered on May 23.
The May 23 judgment had upheld the November 16, 2019 election and affirmed Bello as a validly elected governor for the ‘inability of the petitioners to substantiate allegations of over-voting and violence in the election.’
Justice Kaigama, who led the three-man panel, had also gone ahead to award the cost of N500,000 each against Wada and PDP to be paid to the respondents. However, there was a dissenting judgment delivered by Justice Ohimai Ovbiagele.
Ovbiagele in his judgment nullified the election and ordered the INEC to withdraw the Certificate of Returns issued to Governor Bello.
He also ordered the INEC to conduct fresh elections within 90 days in seven local government areas where there were allegations of violence and massive irregularities. He described the election as being ‘deeply flawed’.
But not satisfied with the majority judgment, PDP and its candidate headed to Appeal Court, where they prayed the court to upturn the decision of Kogi State Governorship Election Tribunal on the ground that the panel aired in their judgment wherein they held that the petitioners failed to prove cases of violence and over-voting.
At Monday’s proceedings, counsel to PDP and Engineer Wada Jibril Okutepa, SAN, prayed the court to declare Wada winner of the election, having met the constitutional requirement of the majority of lawful votes cast and spread.
Okutepa informed the court that Governor Bello did not win by a majority of lawful votes cast.
According to him, there was overwhelming evidence that the election was marred by electoral malpractices.
Counsel to the INEC, Alex Izinyon, SAN, however, urged the court to dismiss the appeal.
The same prayer was made by counsel to APC and Bello, Joseph Daudu, SAN, and Ahmed Raji, SAN.
They both aligned with Izinyon in asking the court to dismiss the appeal.
After listening to the arguments the parties, Justice Adamu Jauro reserved judgment to a date to be communicated to parties.
Wada and his party had on December 14, 2019, approached the tribunal, urging it to disqualify Governor Bello for irregularities and violence that reportedly characterised the governor’s reelection.