Supreme Court affirms Bello as Kogi governor
It was victory for Yahaya Bello yesterday as the Supreme Court affirmed him as the lawfully elected governor of Kogi State and dismissed the appeal filed by James Faleke against the governor as lacking merit.
The reasons for the dismissal of the appeal will be given on September 30. The Supreme Court also dismissed the appeals filed by the former governor, Idris Wada. Giving judgment on Wada’s appeal, Justice Nwali Sylvester Ngwuta said it lacked substance. The court refused to order a fresh election as prayed by Wada. The justices also dismissed the appeals filed by the African Democratic Party (ADP) and the Labour Party as lacking merit.
The seven-man panel headed by Justice Sylvester Ngwuta unanimously delivered the judgement which was read by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun. The crowd at the court comprising supporters of all parties to the case was commended for remaining calm throughout the period of the court process.
As early as 8:00 a.m., people had converged on the Supreme Court premises. While some had their ways into the courtroom, a majority of them loitered around, waiting for the verdict to be delivered.And when members of the seven-man panel took their seats, the cases were called. The first was the appeal filed by Faleke, who was the running mate to the late governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, Abubakar Audu.
Faleke was challenging the lower court’s judgement which upheld the choice of Bello as the governor. The respondents in the suit were APC and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).He urged the court to allow his appeal and dismiss the earlier judgements on the grounds that he started the electoral process with Audu and at the demise of Audu, it was only right that he, his deputy, should be substituted with him (Audu).
The second appeal was instituted by Wada, challenging Bello, APC and INEC over the declaration of Bello as the governor.In his appeal, Wada, through his counsel, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), urged the court to declare that the return of Bello as the governor undermined the right of Kogi people to choose their leader. He hinged his argument on the grounds that a man who scored the least votes in an election cannot be said to have represented the interest of the people. He further argued that it was the first time in the history of Nigerian election that a person would be sworn in as governor without a deputy and the first time a candidate would inherit votes of a dead candidate.
Wada also argued that the mode and time of adoption of Bello into a process that was almost completed contradicted Sections 33, 35 and 36 of the Electoral Act. He alleged that Bello personally picked a deputy, arguing that it was in contradiction of the provisions of the Electoral Act.
He described a situation where a party takes a dead man’s votes and gives them to a candidate who did not qualify at the primaries as wrong.The former governor argued that in politics, it is not only the party that matters but the candidate.Joseph Daudu (SAN) who appeared for the first respondent (Bello) urged the court to dismiss the appeal.
He said the claim made by Wada through his counsel was predicated on three grounds: that Bello scored the least votes in the governorship election; that he was not qualified to contest the election; and that his return was in non-compliance with the provision of the Electoral Act. According to Daudu, Wada through his counsel, failed woefully to prove any of the three grounds.
Arguing on section 33 of the Electoral Act, the counsel insisted that his client did not abridge the section in the substitution of candidate. He therefore urged the court to dismiss the appeal for lacking merit.
Chief Akin Olujimi (SAN), who stood in for the second respondent (APC), also urged the court to dismiss the appeal. He aligned with the arguments made by the first respondent, noting that the central issue running in the argument of the appellant was to question the court’s earlier position that nomination, substitution and sponsorship of candidates rest with the political party.
He argued that the court had earlier taken a decision on the issue of qualifications and that such cannot be shaken.The third respondent in the suit was INEC represented by Alex Izihyon (SAN). Relying on his client’s brief filed on September 2, he adopted the arguments of the first and the second respondents and urged the court to dismiss the appeal for lacking merit.