Anxiety in Kogi as Supreme Court decides Bello’s fate today

 Anxiety in Kogi as Supreme Court decides Bello’s fate today.

An air of uneasiness currently envelops Kogi State as parties to the dispute over the last governorship election in the state anxiously await the verdict of the Supreme Court scheduled to be handed down today Monday 31Aug 2020.

The nation’s apex court is expected to deliver two judgments on the two surviving appeals on the dispute over whether or not the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the incumbent Governor Yahaya Bello, was lawfully returned by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the winner of the November 16, 2019 election.

The first appeal, marked: SC/CV/388/2020, was filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Engr. Musa Wada, while the second one was filed the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and its candidate, Natasha Akpoti.

The appellants are among others, praying the court to reverse the judgments of the Court of Appeal, which upheld the decisions of the election tribunal, affirming Bello’s victory at the poll.

There was a third appeal filed by the Democratic People’s Party (DPP) and its candidate, Usman Mohammed. It did not survive the court’s last proceedings on August 25, 2020.

The appellants’ lawyer, M. S. Ibrahim applied to withdraw it on realising that his clients’ case would not fly. The appellants had challenged INEC’s disqualification of DPP’s candidate, who was said to be 31 years old as against the 35 years allowed by law.

Upon Ibrahim’s oral application for withdrawal, the court’s seven-man panel, led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, struck out the appeal and awarded N200,000 cost against the appellants and in favour of the APC and Bello.

On the same day, the court entertained arguments from lawyers to parties in the appeals by the PDP and SDP and their candidates, following which it adjourned till August 31, 2020 for judgment in both appeals.

Lawyer to the PDP and Wada Jibrin Okutepa (SAN), while adopting the appellants’ brief of argument, prayed the court to allow his client’s appeal and grant the reliefs contained therein.

Okutepa contended, among others, that the five Justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law when they upheld the majority decision of the election tribunal, which validated Bello’s election.

On their part, lawyers to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Bello and APC – Alex Izinyon (SAN), Joseph Daudu (SAN) and Ahmed Raji (SAN) – urged the court to reject the appeal on the grounds that it lacked merit.

They prayed the court to retain the concurrent findings of the Court of Appeal and the majority decision of the tribunal, to the effect that Bello was validly returned as the winner of the election.

Similar arguments were made in relation to the appeal by the SDP and Akpoti

The PDP and Wada, in their appellants’ brief of argument, raised five issues for the court’s determination. They are:

* Whether the Court of Appeal acted without jurisdiction and in breach of the right to fair hearing of the appellants when it considered and determined the appeal before it on issues that did not arise from the majority judgment of the trial tribunal and or the notice and grounds appeal filed before it.

*Whether the Court of Appeal was right in affirming the decision of the trial tribunal striking out several paragraphs of the appellants’ petition and deeming grounds B and C of the petition to have been abandoned.

*Whether the Court of Appeal was not in grave error in holding that the evidence of PWl9 (the forensic expert) and his report (exhibit P185A) have no evidential value.

*Considering the peculiar facts and circumstances of this case, whether the court below was right in holding that the failure by the appellants to call polling unit agents in the polling units complained of in the seven contested Local Government Areas of Kogi State is fatal to the petition.


*The Court of Appeal rejected the reasons given by t

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