By Millicent Umoru-O
The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed two appeals against the re-election of Yahaya Bello of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and affirmed him the governor of Kogi State.
The appeals were filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Musa Wada, and the Social Democratic Party and its candidate, Natasha Akpoti.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Mr Bello as the winner of the governorship election held in November 2019.
However in a unanimous judgment on Monday, a seven-member panel of the apex court led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Tanko Mohammed, dismissed both appeals on the ground that, they lack merit.
Recall that, May 23, in a judgement of two-to-one, the tribunal affirmed Mr Bello’s election.
The dissenting judgment by Justice Ohimai Ovbiagele nullified the election of Mr Bello and ordered the electoral umpire to conduct fresh elections in seven local government areas where the petitioners proved their allegations of over-voting, voter intimidation, massive thumb printing, thuggery, and other electoral malpractices.
But on July 4, the Court of Appeal dismissed Mr Wada’s appeal and affirmed Mr Bello as the governor of the state.
The appellate court also dismissed the appeals filed by SDP, the Actions Peoples Party (APP) and the Democratic People’s Party (DPP).
On the appeal filed by SDP and its candidate, the Court of Appeal held that Natasha Akpoti could not prove the allegations of corruption and voter intimidation against Mr Bello.
Following this, the appellate court dismissed the SDP’s appeal.
On Mr Wada’s appeal, the appellate court held that the allegations, which include multiple thumb printing and result falsification, were not proven by the appellants.
The Court of Appeal then ordered Mr Wada to pa N100,000 each to Mr Bello, the APC, and INEC who were listed as respondents in the appeal.
Dissatisfied, the parties approached the apex court seeking to upturn the judgment of the two lower courts.
Reading the apex court’s judgment, which was prepared by Justice Inyang Okoro and read by Justice Uwani Abba-Aji on Monday, the court affirmed the earlier judgements of the two lower courts delivered on May 23 and July 4 respectively, which had both upheld Mr Bello’s victory at the poll.
The apex court resolved all the five issues raised for determination in the appeal against the PDP and Mr Wada.
All the five issues were resolved in favour of Mr Bello, APC and INEC.
Subsequently, the apex court declared the appellants’ appeal as lacking in merit.
“Having resolved all the five issues against the appellants, it is abundantly clear that the appeal is devoid of any scintilla of merit and it is accordingly dismissed,” the court ruled.
On Ms Akpoti’s appeal, the apex court held that, “there was no reason to interfere with the judgments of the Court of Appeal and tribunal.”
The apex court also held that the appellants did not provide particulars of forgery to support the claim of forgery against the deputy governor, Edward Onoja.
The apex court further held that there was no evidence of rigging nor evidence that the respondents connived among themselves to rig the election.
On the issue of exclusion, Justice Abba-Aji noted that the appellants blew hot and cold at the same time when they in one breath said that the logo of the SDP was not on the result sheet while in another said it was written in long hand.
The apex court, subsequently, dismissed the SDP and Ms Akpoti’s appeal.
Aside from the CJN and Messrs Okoro and Abba-Aji, other members of the panel who also agreed with the lead judgments were Olabode Rhodes-Vivour, Sylvester Ngwuta, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, and Amina Augie.
In the election held in November 2019, Mr Bello polled 406,222 votes to defeat Mr Wada, who scored 189,704 votes.
Ms Akpoti of SDP came a distant third with a score of 9,482 votes.