Court reserves judgment in Kogi guber appeal

The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, on Friday, reserved judgment in the appeals brought before it by Honourable James Faleke of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former governor  Idris Wada of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) challenging the judgment of the Kogi State governorship election petition tribunal, which upheld the election of Yahaya Bello as the governor of Kogi State.

A panel of five justices of the appellate court, presided over by Justice Jumai Hannatu Sankey, after hearing submissions of parties in the matter, said judgment in the appeals would be delivered on a date to be communicated to parties in the matter.

Chief Wole Olanipekun, who represented Faleke, in his arguments, urged the court to set aside the decision of the tribunal and invalidate Yahaya Bello’s  election on the ground that Bello was not properly nominated.

He submitted that Bello did not undergo all the electioneering processes as required by law before he emerged as his party’s candidate in re-run election.

Olanipekun, therefore, urged the court to allow the appeal and declare Faleke as the proper person for the governorship seat.

In his own submission, INEC’s counsel, Ahmed Raji, asked the court to uphold Yahaya Bello’s election on the ground that he was properly nominated by the APC as a replacement to the late Audu who passed away during the election.

Also arguing in the same vein, Joseph Daudu, representing  Bello, insisted that the issue of nomination of candidates for election was the sole responsibility of a political party.

Daudu told the court that Governor Bello, having been nominated by the APC, in compliance with the existing law and authority of the party, remained the candidate of his party in the election.

He urged the court to dismiss all the appeals against his client and uphold the decision of the tribunal which had earlier held that Bello was properly nominated.

After taking arguments from parties in the matter, the presiding Justice, Justice Sankey, announced that the date for judgment would be communicated to parties in the matter.

The Kogi State Election Petition Tribunal had, in a judgment delivered on June 6, 2016, dismissed Falake and Wada’s petitions challenging the election of Yahaya Bello as governor the state.

The three-member panel, headed by Justice Halima Mohammed, held in a unanimous judgment  that Faleke could not be declared governor of Kogi State, because he was not nominated by the APC as its substantive candidate in the 2015 Kogi governorship election.

The tribunal held that the APC was right to have nominated  Bello to replace the late Audu as its candidate in the December 2015 supplementary election, adding also that Faleke had no locus-standi to file the petition since he was not nominated by the APC as its governorship candidate in the said election.

Justice Mohammed, who read the judgment, said “votes cast in an election belong to a political party” which nominates a candidate; hence it was lawful for the party to transfer votes polled by the late Audu to Bello as APC is legally empowered to nominate and sponsor a candidate for an election as the nation’s constitution does not recognise an independent candidate.

The tribunal then, dismissed Falake’s petition challenging the legitimacy of Bello’s election for lacking in merit and further held that Faleke remained the valid deputy governor of the state because there was no evidence to show that he wrote to his party withdrawing his candidature as deputy governor as required by law.

Faleke had petitioned the tribunal challenging the declaration of Bello as governor of Kogi State by INEC, praying the tribunal to declare him winner of the election on the ground that he had a joint ticket with the late Audu, who was the governorship candidate of the APC at the time of the election.

Crisis started when the APC replaced Audu, the late standard-bearer of the party in the November 21, 2015 governorship election in the state with Bello.

Faleke, who was the running mate of Audu in the election, felt slighted by the action of his party; he then asked INEC to declare him winner of the election, a request INEC declined to oblige him.

He contended that he ought to have inherited late Audu’s votes, who was leading in the election before it was declared inconclusive, since he was his running mate.

The electoral umpire went ahead to hold a supplementary election with Bello as a substituted candidate for the APC.

Bello’s argument was that he was duly nominated by his party to fly the flag of the party as its governorship candidate in the supplementary election, and that he scored the highest number of votes in the exercise.

The tribunal, in the same vein, held in its judgment that the petition jointly filed by Wada, his running mate, Sunday Awoniyi, and their party, the PDP, lacked merit and consequently  struck out the petition for also lacking in merit.