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Kogi guber: Jubilant Expectation as apex court rules today ,APC, PDP, SDP Hopeful By Ralph Omololu Agbana,

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The final word on the 2019 Kogi Gubernatorial Election dispute would be heard tomorrow when Nigeria’s Supreme Court hits the gavel to sign off its ruling on the consolidated appeals before it.

Ahead of Monday’s verdict, the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and hard fighting Social Democratic Party (SDP), are hopeful that justice would be done on the matter.

Following the adoption of the final briefs by all parties on August 25, the seven-man panel of justices led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Tanko Muhammad, adjourned proceedings for final judgment in the appeal brought by the PDP governorship candidate, Engineer Musa Wada and his party.

Wada and PDP are challenging the election of Governor Yahaya Bello of APC, who earlier survived the petitions both at the Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal and the Court of Appeal respectively.

Both cadres of lower courts had entered their separate judgments affirming APC’s victory on the grounds that Wada and PDP failed to prove allegations of electoral misconducts in their petition.

It would be recalled that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had on November 18, 2019 declared Bello and APC, as winners of the governorship poll, stressing that the party and its candidate won majority of votes cast in the election.

However, four other parties that participated in the election, including PDP, SDP, Democratic People’s Party (DPP) and Action Democratic Party (ADP), approached the Kogi State Election Petitions Tribunal to challenge the authenticity of the results declared by INEC.

But after the four petitions were dismissed at the tribunal for lacking in merit, the opposition parties expressed their dissatisfaction with the judgments and headed for courts of superior jurisdiction.

Based on in its strength and votes tally, PDP’s petition gained prominence. Wada, who had approached the appeal court, decided on scaling up his petition to the apex court after suffering similar fate as at the tribunal, asking it to set aside the concurrent judgements of the tribunal and the court of appeal.

The PDP standard bearer asked the court of final adjudication to set aside the judgments of the appellate court on the grounds that the Court of Appeal wrongly discarded evidence of rigging, state sponsored violence, over-voting, multiple thumb-printing, and results falsification, particularly in seven local government areas of the state.

A poignant feature of the petitions, which the electorate feasted upon was the aspect of forensic analysis, because of diverse interpretations. While the majority judgment at the three-man Election Tribunal delivered by Justice Kashim Kaigama favoured Bello’s re-election, Justice Ohimai Ovbiagele in his dissenting judgment, which leaned heavily on the forensic analysis earlier adopted by the panel, held that there was evidence of electoral malpractices in seven councils.

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Ovbiagele subsequently invalidated Bello’s election and ordered a rerun in the seven affected local government areas of the state.

Puzzling Appeal
DESPITE the divided verdict at the tribunal, but the unanimous judgment of the five-man panel delivered by Justice Haruna Tsamani, the appeal court upheld Bello’s election. It held that the appellants merely dumped documents on the tribunal without calling relevant witnesses to link the documents to the allegation of over-voting.

Justice Tsamani declared that a party who alleges over-voting must tender the voter registers for the affected polling units and their results showing how, without over-voting, the results would be in his or her

Yet, the PDP contended that the Appeal Court panel of justices erred in their judgment for failure to address the matter of forensic evidence. The party and its candidate, Wada, subsequently approached the Supreme Court, praying it to set aside the appellate court’s decision.

At the apex court, PDP is relying on the likelihood that the forensic analysis would be adopted on the strength that it was the Supreme Court justices that ordered for the adoption of the forensic analysis after it was rejected by INEC at the lower tribunal and appeal court.

The appellants, Wada and PDP, believe that the justices of the apex court would not turn around to discard the same forensic analysis it earlier ordered its adoption.

Jubilant Expectation
THE forensic report is said to be the basis of jubilant expectation within the PDP camp ahead of tomorrow’s final ruling. While many PDP supporters have celebrated it, some stakeholders even deem the forensic analysis to be legally superior to both the majority decision of the lower tribunal and unanimous appellate court ruling.

The Kogi State Governorship Election Tribunal and Appeal Court had in its ruling dismissed INEC’s opposition to the adoption of forensic analysis. But dissatisfied, INEC had approached the Supreme Court, which also dismissed INEC’s appeal and ordered for its adoption.

Nonetheless, the forensic analysis could not influence the majority judgment of the three-man Kogi State Governorship Election panel as it upheld Bello’s election.

In a contrary ruling, Justice Ovbiagele not only recognised the potency of the forensic analysis, but also dwelt heavily on the scientific analysis to sack Bello and ordered a fresh election in the affected seven councils.

Reiterating the salient points in Wada and PDP’s optimism, a source within the opposition camp confided in The Guardian as follows: “The essence of the forensic evidence is that it detected 257,274 unlawfully thumb printed ballot papers from the seven LGAs examined. Of this 257,274, a total of 239,000 thumbprints were done for APC, while 14,832 were thumb printed for PDP.

“Section 140 (3) of the Electoral Act enjoins the Courts to discountenance such unlawful votes before computation of votes for candidates.

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“The forensic evidence and report were not challenged at all by lawyers of Bello or APC at the tribunal. If those unlawful votes are deducted, final valid votes will be APC 166,330, while PDP is 174,000. Wada already has 25 per cent in 17 LGAs; hence he ought to be declared outright.

“We expect the Supreme Court, having dismissed INEC’s Appeal on forensic, to give full effect to the forensic result as same was left unchallenged. The dissenting judgement has simplified the work of Supreme Court. The apex court has a duty to save democracy and reposition public perception of their image.”

Justice Ovbiageli’s dissenting judgment at the Kogi State Tribunal held that the forensic examiner’s report prepared by an expert, Professor Tanko Ishaya, captured the alleged irregularities by the petitioners.

While ruling that the expert report of PW19 i.e. exhibit 185A, clearly showed wrong computation of results and multiple thumb printing of ballot papers. Justice Ovbiagele stressed: “That PW19 is indeed a well-qualified expert with regards to forensic examination and that exhibit P184 (E) was a Certificate in Forensic Examination.

“That his credibility and professional competence was not impugned under cross examination. That he relied on the order of the tribunal made on the 15th day of January 2020 to carry out the forensic examination of electoral materials.

“That the respondents failed to controvert PW19’s testimony hence it stands unchallenged as no witness was called to controvert his testimony. That PW19 did not work with the petitioners hence he is an independent witness who is not interested and is thus detached from the outcome of the litigation hence not a ‘person interested’ in view of the definition of the Evidence Act to exclude the report prepared by him from admission as evidence.”

Contrasting Opinions
Commenting on the expectations on the possible outcome of the petition, a lawyer based in Abuja, Felix Are, said the dissenting judgement of May 23, 2020 should not and cannot stand to be equated to the majority judgment, which upheld Bello’s re-election.

He posited that the Tribunal’s ruling was a split decision of two against one justice, adding that the panel’s majority judgment affirmed INEC’s return of Governor Bello as winner and accordingly dismissed the Wada/PDP’s petition.

Are insisted that athough Justice Ohimai Ovbiagele differed with his co-judges, “It is pertinent to point out at the outset that a dissenting judgment, however powerful, learned and articulate, is not the judgment of the court and therefore not binding

“Indeed, the judgment of a Court/Tribunal is the majority judgment, which is the binding judgment. Hence, the majority Judgment read out by the chairman, Justice Kaigama, is the judgment of the Kogi Governorship Election Petition Tribunal.

“Despite the foregoing, the dissenting judgment has been celebrated by many as legally and factually correct, while some have even taken it to be the majority decision of the tribunal. This (opinion) seeks to dispel those insinuations.”

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Also, discounting the possibility of a rerun in the controversial seven councils, some stakeholders contended that rerun was not part of PDP’s prayers, but outright declaration of its candidate as winner of the election.

 

Justice Ovbiageli’s minority judgment seems to support that view as he ruled that after deducting votes cast in the affected seven councils, Wada scored superior number of total votes cast. Yet, despite its 30,000 votes lead, going by the minority judgment, analysts claim that Wada’s total votes would still be lower than the total cancelled votes.

The implication of that, observers said, is that the apex court may not declare Musa Wada as outright winner of the November 16 Kogi State governorship election.
SDP’s Sidekick

ANOTHER appeal pending at the apex court is the one filed by the SDP, which ruling also comes up tomorrow. SDP and its candidate, Natasha Akpoti, are challenging their alleged exclusion from the election. Having failed to prove their allegations at the tribunal and Appeal Court, the party prays the apex court to determine whether INEC had any right or reason to disobey Abuja Federal High Court order, which faulted the commission’s initial disqualification of Akpoti and ordered it to include her party on the ballot.

As the wait continues, Bello and Wada’s loyalists have been engaging in contrasting positive expectations as confidence booster ahead of the all important final verdict.

Speaker, Kogi State House of Assembly, Matthew Kolawole, expressed confidence that Governor Bello would emerge victorious, noting that APC is more popular party in the state.

Kolawole, who spoke shortly after judgement in the matter was adjourned to tomorrow, said issues canvassed by the petitioners are not such as could elicit worries. He noted that the lower courts have done justice to those cases, saying that the apex court would affirm them.

On his part, spokesman for Wada, Faruk Adejoh-Audu, described the enthusiasm in the Bello/APC camp as amusing and antics of drowning men.

He said: “In the last few days, several functionaries of Bello’s government have resorted to sub judicial public comments that give the impression that they are privy to the judgment.

“My guess is that they are overwhelmed with tension and apprehension, because they know the trophy they are desecrating is a stolen one. Every thief will remain restless knowing the rightful owner of his loot is out for justice.

“That is why they have been unrestrained in their vociferations. A drowning man will clutch at even a straw in one last desperate bid to survive. That is what is at play.”

Guardian

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Judiciary

Alleged N10bn scam: Secondus demands N1bn, retraction from Afegbua

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Following this week’s allegation of financial fraud to the tune of N10 billion made against Prince Uche Secondus, national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP by Kassim Afegbua, the former, Thursday, demanded a retraction of the story and payment of N1 billion in damages from Afegbua.

Secondus through his counsel, Emeka Etiaba, threatened to take legal action against Mr. Afegbua within 48 hours if he fails to meet his demands.

Afegbua had accused Secondus of mismanaging the sum of N10 billion which he claimed accrued to the party from the sales of nomination forms for the 2019 election; a claim punctured by party spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, who noted that the party realized the sum of N4.

6 billion and not N10B billion.

The PDP boss noted that Afegbua, a former Information Commissioner in Edo state had in two national dailies as well as in a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, said that “much of the financial transaction of the PDP under Prince Uche Secondus have been shrouded in mystery.”

Afegbua also accused the Secondus leadership of using the bank account of Morufu Nigeria Limited in the sale of nomination forms in 2019, instead of the party’s account.

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However, Secondus in a letter from Emeka Etiaba Chambers and addressed to Afegbua through his counsel, Kayode Ajulo and Co obtained by Vanguard demanded the sum of N1billion from Afegbua within 48 hours failure to which he will be sued for libel.

Prince Kassim Afegbua
The letter reads in part “The above publication of yours portrays our client in a bad light and gives notice to the whole world that our client is a fraudster who is incapable of holding the exalted office of the national chairman of the PDP.

“The two publications made by you were given prominence on the front pages of the Newspapers you employed for your defamatory actions and the publications were widely circulated and read’.

The letter captured some of the prominent federal political positions Secondus held in the past including chairman, National Insurance Commission; Chairman, National Identity Management Commission; Member, Nigerian Railway Board, stating that he “kept an unblemished reputation.

The letter continued: “Your publications which you know to be false have therefore brought him to odium and has challenged his right standing in the society as a trustworthy character.

“The publications were read worldwide and most especially in all nooks and crannies of Nigeria and this fact has been confirmed by the phone calls that have trailed your publications.

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Take notice that if you fail to retract your said publications, apologize to our client in the said newspapers with the same prominence with which you published the offensive statements and pay the sum N1,000,000,000.00 (One Billion Naira) to him as damages (all within 48 hours from the date hereof), we shall proceed to institute an action to seek redress from a court of competent jurisdiction”.

Meanwhile, when our correspondent contacted Afegbua for his reaction, he had this to say: “When I receive the letter, I will respond to it. I will consult my lawyers. I haven’t received any letter. But I cannot be intimidated or distracted from pursuing accountability in PDP. That will be my initial reaction.”

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We Cannot Suspend Strike Now, JUSUN Tells CJN

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The national officials of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) had told the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad that it would be very difficult for it to call off its ongoing strike now.

JUSUN had visited the CJN in his office on Wednesday ostensibly to give him a feedback on his recent demand on the union to call off the ongoing strike.

The CJN had, at an earlier meeting with JUSUN leaders on April 6, asked the union to call off the strike in view of its adverse effect on the justice system in the country. According to a statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant on Media to the CJN, Ahurakah Isah, the JUSUN officials, led by its Deputy National President, Emmanuel Abioye and Jimoh Musa Alonge (Treasurer), explained why the union found it difficult to heed the CJN’s demand to call off the strike.

Abiyoye told the CJN that the state governors must begin to demonstrate some level of seriousness by putting in place some measures precedent to the implementation of financial autonomy for the judiciary in their respective states.

‘’Though there’s financial autonomy for the judiciary already in some states while some are assuring that they would comply, others have to take steps in readiness for compliance,’’ Abioye said. According to Abioye, the union expects each state to start implementing its selfaccounting law to deal with the Internally Generated Revenue in line with Section 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended; and that states without such law should put it in place.

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Abioye said it is his union’s position that there must be some level of seriousness from all quarters and, as such, the amount standing to the credit of the judiciary from the monthly federal allocation should be deducted directly from the source by the Accountant General of the Federation and remit same to the National Judicial Council (NJC) for onward transmission to heads of courts.

He said for the Federation Consolidated Account also known as Federal Allocation, the budget of each state judiciary submitted to the implementation committee (received) on October 2, 2020 should be implemented by deducting the amount due to the state judiciary directly from source by Accountant General of the Federation AGF) in line with Sections 81(3) and 162(9) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) for the states. “In other words, the AGF should deduct from the monthly Federal Allocation and remit it to NJC for onward transmission of the fund to the Heads of Courts at the State Judiciary.

“Until this is done, there is no going back, the strike would go on.’’ However, the CJN said it has become difficult to fault the idea of the strike since the rights of the union and its members which are clearly defined in the Constitution are being denied, especially at state level. ‘’I can’t fault your reasons for embarking on this protest because the union wants its rights restored in line with the provisions of the Constitution. I commend you for following due process so far to protest against the injustice,’’ the CJN said.

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JUSUN insists allocations must be deducted at source, as govs beg members to call off strike

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The Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) has insisted that each state must implement its self-accounting law in dealing with Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).

In a statement issued by its General Secretary I. M. Adetola, in Kaduna, on Thursday, the Union maintained that states must implement the Fund Management Law in dealing with the state consolidated funds, in accordance with Section 121(3) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution as amended.

This is as governors through the platform of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) on Thursday implored the union to call off its strike, and pledged to implement the financial autonomy for the judiciary.

JUSUN maintained that the monthly federal allocation to the judiciary should be deducted directly from the source by Accountant General of the Federation and remitted to National Judicial Council (NJC) for onward transmission to heads of courts,

“For the Federal Allocation, the Budget of each State Judiciary submitted to the implementation committee (received on Oct.

2, 2020) should be implemented by deducting the amount due to the state judiciary directly from the source by Accountant General of the Federation.

“This is in accordance with Section 81(3), Section 162(9) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic Nigeria (as amended) for the states. The Accountant General of the Federation should be directed accordingly,” he said.

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The union also called for the payment of the arrears from the month of October 2020.

Nigeria reported that JUSUN, on April 6, in efforts to ensure it strike action was effective, shut down all courts across the country by mounting guard at the entrance of the courts to ensure that no one entered the court premises.

The action has crippled court proceedings as well as commercial activities around the court premises.

It would be recalled that a Federal High Court, which sat in Abuja had in January 2014, held that the financial autonomy for the judiciary was a constitutional provision that must be complied with by the executive branch of government.

Also, President Muhammadu Buhari, on May 23 2020, signed into law an Executive Order to grant financial autonomy to the legislature and the judiciary across the 36 states of the federation.

The order mandated the Accountant-General of the Federation to deduct from source amount due to state legislatures and judiciaries from the monthly allocation to each state for states that refuse to grant such autonomy.

Also, the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, made the Executive Order No. 10 of 2020 mandatory, stating that all states of the federation should include the allocations of both the legislature and the judiciary in the first-line charge of their budgets.

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Meanwhile, the state governors through the platform of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) on Thursday, pledged to implement the financial autonomy for the judiciary by May ending at the latest and called on the striking members of the JUSUN to call off their two weeks old strike.

The chairman of the NGF and the Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, gave the assurance while speaking with journalists after meeting with stakeholders from the state judiciary and legislature at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

He said the modalities for the implementation were worked out at the meeting held at the Presidential Villa.

According to him, the meeting, chaired by the Chief of Staff to President Buhari, Ibrahim Gambari was attended by the Solicitor-General of the Federation, the representatives of the judiciary, the representatives of the Conference of Speakers, and House of Representatives.

 

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