In a judicial finale on Friday 12th January 2024, the Supreme Court quashed the lingering legal skirmishes stemming from the governorship elections of March 18, 2023, across eight states.
Seeking a favorable tilt, candidates and their respective parties had fervently presented their cases to the highest legal authority in the country. The hallowed Chambers of justice echoed with arguments as aspirations clashed in the pursuit of electoral justice.
The gavel’s resounding declaration brought closure to the arduous legal odyssey, laying to rest the contentious disputes that had gripped the political landscape.
The Supreme Court, akin to a sagacious arbiter, cast the decisive verdict, leaving behind the echoes of legal deliberations and paving the way for the aftermath of democratic contention to unfold in the states’ politics.
Here we take a look at the eight cases:
On Friday, the highest court confirmed the victories of several state governors, including Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, along with counterparts from Abia, Bauchi, Cross River, Ebonyi, Kano, Plateau, and Zamfara states—namely, Alex Otti, Bala Mohammed, Bassey Otu, Abba Yusuf, Francis Nwifuru, Caleb Mutfwang, and Dauda Lawal.
The court upheld Sanwo-Olu’s election, previously affirmed by the state tribunal and the Appeal Court. Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, the Labour Party candidate, claimed in his appeal that Sanwo-Olu’s running mate, Obafemi Hamzat, renounced Nigerian citizenship. The court ruled that Hamzat is a Nigerian by birth, stating that citizenship renunciation must be registered by the president, and the appellant failed to provide evidence.
The appeal was dismissed for lacking merit. Additionally, Abdulazeez Adediran, aka Jandor, the Peoples Democratic Party’s candidate, argued that the name Sanwo-Olu submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission differed from that on his WAEC certificate. The apex court dismissed the appeal as “academic.”
The apex court upheld Bassey Otu’s election as the governor of Cross River, dismissing the Peoples Democratic Party’s appeal, branding it a futile expenditure of judicial time and resources.
Otu had contested under the All Progressives Congress.
Meanwhile, the court dismissed the appeal of Sadique Abubakar, the All Progressives Congress governorship candidate in Bauchi State, affirming Governor Bala Mohammed’s election.
Abubakar claimed significant violations of the Electoral Act in two courts, but Justice Ibrahim Saulawa, in the lead judgment, found all six issues against him, declaring the appeal without merit.
Despite the initial concern, the Supreme Court overturned the lower courts’ decisions to remove Governor Abba Kabir Yusuff of Kano State.
The tribunal had invalidated 165,663 of his votes, citing unstamped and unsigned ballot papers.
However, the Supreme Court declared Nasiru Gawuna of the APC as the election winner.
In a recent judgment, Justice John Okoro ordered the restoration of all deducted votes, emphasizing that the ballot papers met Electoral Act requirements with INEC’s logo and coat of arms, and party membership issues are internal party affairs.
He also held that the issue of party membership is an internal affair of the party.
The Supreme Court affirmed Dauda Lawal’s election as Zamfara State Governor, with Justice Emmanuel Agim characterizing the appellate court’s decision as flawed.
Justice Agim stated that the respondents failed to present substantial evidence supporting their claims, including allegations of overvoting.
Agim said, “The court of appeal’s decision is perverse. It has no evidential foundation. The appeal has merit, it succeeds and it is allowed. The order that the election is inclusive is hereby set aside. The election of the appellant is upheld.”
The election victory of Francis Nwifuru, the Governor of Ebonyi, was affirmed by the Supreme Court.
Despite challenges from the PDP and Ifeanyi Odii, the Court, led by Justice Tijani Abubakar, ruled that Section 177(c) of the constitution doesn’t require scrutiny of how parties choose candidates.
According to the judgment, as long as a candidate meets Section 177 criteria and isn’t disqualified by Section 182, they are automatically eligible for the governorship election. The appeal was deemed unmeritorious and was dismissed.
He held that once a candidate satisfies the provisions of 177 and is not disqualified by Section 182 of the constitution, the candidate becomes automatically qualified to contest the governorship election.
He held that the appeal was unmeritorious and dismissed it.
In the latest development, the highest court has upheld Alex Otti’s victory as the legitimate governor of Abia State. The Peoples Democratic Party, along with its candidate Okey Ahiwe, and Ikechi Emenike of the APC, saw their appeals dismissed by the court.
Otti, representing the Labour Party, secured 175,466 votes, surpassing his closest competitor Okey Ahiwe of the PDP, who garnered 88,529 votes in the March 18 governorship election.
Otti of the Labour Party polled 175,466 votes to defeat his closest rival, Okey Ahiwe of the PDP, who scored 88,529 votes in the March 18 governorship election.
Plateau State Governor Caleb Mutfwang’s election victory was affirmed by the Supreme Court. Justice Emmanuel Agim, in delivering the verdict on Friday, emphasized that the APC and its candidate lacked standing as non-members of the PDP to contest the PDP’s primary election.
He further asserted that both the tribunal and the court of appeal had no jurisdiction to address this matter. Agim criticized the APC’s petition as an abuse of the court process and disapproved of the appeal court’s decision to remove the governor.
He said, “The petition by the APC and its candidates are abuse of the court process. I wonder why the matter came to court at all. This appeal is allowed.”
“My worry is that a lot of people have suffered as a result of this,” Justice John Okoro said while agreeing with the lead judgment.