Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Sokoto State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal on Wednesday dismissed the petition challenging the election of Governor Aminu Tambuwal of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for lacking in merit.
The Justice Bawale Abdullahi led three-man Tribunal held that the petitioner, Ahmed Aliyu, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), failed to prove the allegations made against the credibility of the election.
Consequently, the Tribunal affirmed the declaration of Tambuwal as the valid winner of the governorship election that held in the state on March 9.
The Tribunal held that since the result declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) enjoyed a presumption of regularity, the burden was on the petitioner to prove otherwise.
Before arriving at its final decision, the Tribunal discarded some of the documentary evidence tendered by the petitioner on the grounds that they were not properly certified.
It equally noted that whereas some of the witnesses made their written statements in Hausa language, the petitioner only tendered the version that was translated into the English language in evidence.
In his lead judgement, the Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Abdullahi, held that the petitioner was unable to prove any of the allegations in his petition.
Justice Abdullahi held that testimonies of most of the witnesses were based on hearsay evidence.
The Tribunal further held that the witnesses brought by the petitioner failed to establish the case of over-voting and substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act, 2011.
Based on the evidence the witnesses brought before the Tribunal, “they failed to prove their cases and the Tribunal does not need light to search for the truth, the petition is hereby dismissed,” the judge ruled.
He maintained that the APC candidate, having failed to discharge the burden of proof that was placed on him by the law, was bound to have his petition dismissed.
Other members of the panel that concurred with the lead verdict of the Tribunal were Justices E N Anyadike and Kadi M A Oniye.
The Sokoto State governorship election was declared inconclusive after 75,403 votes were cancelled, a figure that was higher than the 3, 413 vote margin of victory that placed Governor Tambuwal ahead of the other candidates.
A re-run poll that was conducted on March 23 saw Tambuwal emerging victorious with a slim margin of 342 votes.
Dissatisfied with the outcome, Aliyu approached the Tribunal to challenge the declaration of Tambuwal as winner.
Aside from his contention that the election was marred by irregularities, the petitioner told the Tribunal that Tambuwal and his party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), did not score the majority of the lawful votes cast.
He urged the Tribunal to either declare the election inconclusive or order the INEC to conduct fresh polls at polling units where results were cancelled.
He alleged that there were incidents of over-voting, non-compliance with the Electoral Act, illegal allocation of votes, mutilation and unlawful cancellation of results.
Both the INEC and the PDP failed to produce witnesses to defend the petition, saying they would rather rely on evidence they extracted from the petitioner’s witnesses during cross-examination.
However, in separate preliminary objections, all the respondents challenged the validity of the petition, urging the Tribunal to dismiss it for want of competence.
The INEC through its lawyer, Mr Alhassan Umar (SAN), urged the Tribunal to uphold the outcome of the election declaration of Governor Tambuwal of the PDP as winner.
Though Tambuwal, a one-time Speaker of House of Representatives, emerged governor on the platform of the APC, he subsequently defected to the PDP to win his second term in office.
The Tribunal had earlier dismissed objections raised against the petition by the respondents on the premise that the petition was validly filed before it.