8 January 2016

Nigeria: Supreme Court Affirms Yari As Zamfara Governor

The Supreme Court on Friday affirmed the election of Abdulazeez Yari of All Progressives Congress as governor of Zamfara State.

Delivering the judgment, Justice John Okoro-led panel of six judges held that the petition lacked substance.

"The grouse of the appellants in this issue, basically, is that there was over-voting and that because of that there was substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act.

"To prove over-voting, the law is trite that the petitioner must tender the voters' register.

"The court must also see the statement of result in the appropriate forms which would show the number of registered accredited voters and number of actual voters," the court said.

Mr. Okoro said the appellant must also relate each of the documents to the specific area of the case in respect of which documents were tendered.

He added that the appellant ought to have shown that figures, representing over-voting, if removed, would result in victory for the petitioner.

"From the finding above, I agree with the court below that the appellants failed woefully to prove over-voting in accordance with the principles laid down by law.

"The reliance on the evidence of one of the witnesses through a document he did not make has not made any difference.

"There is no doubt that a petitioner is entitled to contend that an election or return in an election be invalidated by reason of corrupt practice or non-compliance," he said.

Mr. Okoro, however, said for a petitioner to succeed on the ground of corruption, he must prove that corrupt practices or non-compliance actually took place.

He said the appellant must also prove that the alleged infraction substantially affected the result of the election.

"There is need for a petitioner who alleges over-voting to lead concrete evidence to show that there was indeed over-voting and that it benefitted the winner of the contest.

"Without doubt, over-voting in an election can be in favour of the appellant, the respondent or other contestants who participated and lost at the election but are not parties to the petition.

"Therefore, the onus is on the petitioner to show that the over-voting was in favour of the respondent and that it was as a result of the over-voting that Yari won the election," he said.

"In this case, the appellants alleged that there was over-voting by 86,045 votes.

"Assuming that the appellants were able to prove over-voting by that figure, a reduction of that number from the score of the first respondent (Yari) put at 716,964 votes will not make any difference.

"It means that the appellant would attract a total of 201,938 votes which would not have changed the position of the result of the election and that Yari would still be left with 630,919 votes.

"Having resolved all the issues adopted for determination of this appeal against the appellants, it is crystal clear that this appeal is devoid of any scintilla of merit and is accordingly dismissed.

"I uphold the decision of the Court of Appeal delivered on November 12, 2015, which upheld the judgment of the trial tribunal.

"I therefore, award costs of N100,000 against the appellants in favour of the first and second respondents," Mr. Okoro ruled.

The candidate of Peoples Democratic Party in the election, Mahmud Shinkafi, had approached the apex court to challenge the decision of the Appeal Court in Sokoto that upheld Mr. Yari's victory.

The petition was anchored on the grounds that there was want of the 21 days statutory notice given to the Independent National Electoral Commission before the conduct of the APC governorship primary election.



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