The Kaduna State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal on Monday upheld the March 9, 2019 election of Governor Nasir el-Rufai of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the validly elected governor of the state.
In its ruling in Kaduna, the three-man Tribunal dismissed the petition filed by Alhaji Isah Ashiru, the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the March 9, poll.
Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Ibrahim Bako, ruled that the petitioners failed to provide substantial evidence to support their petition.
He declared that the petitioners did not provide substantial proof to support all that they alleged in their petition.
According to Justice Bako; “The petitioners failed to provide proof that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), was wrong in its declaration that Governor Nasir Ahmed el-Rufai was duly elected.
“This Tribunal, therefore, dismisses the Petition filed by the PDP and its candidate, Alhaji Isah Ashiru, against the decision of INEC that returned of Malam Nasir el-Rufai, candidate of the APC, as duly elected in the March 9 election in Kaduna state.’’
The Tribunal chairman noted that the PDP and its governorship candidate (Ashiru), petitioned the March 9, 2019 poll in which el-Rufai was returned as duly elected by the INEC, adding that the petitioners in their final written address on August 19, 2019 asked the Tribunal to cancel 515,951 votes which it contended were unlawfully added to the total votes cast during the March 9 poll.
Justice Bako said; “The petitioners had called 135 witnesses out of the 685 they mentioned in the petition to prove alleged massive rigging, ballot stuffing and other irregularities during the poll as contained in their petition.
“The petitioners had alleged that INEC added 391,741 votes to el-Rufai of APC and 124,210 unlawful votes to the PDP through wrong or double entry on the result sheets.
“The petitioners also contended that declaring the 2nd respondent as winner by 1st respondent was illegal as the 2nd respondent did not score majority of lawful votes.
“The petitioners through their counsel, led by Emmanuel C. Ukala SAN, said deducting 391,741 votes from 1,045,427 scored by the 2nd respondent and 124,210 from the petitioner’s 814,168 votes will give victory to the petitioners and candidate in the election.
“The counsel had argued that after the deduction of the alleged unlawful votes, the petitioner will be left with 689,958 lawful votes, while the 2nd respondent will have 653,686 votes.
“In his submission, the counsel argued that all parties to the petition were bound to argue their cases on the basis of whether or not the petitioners had assembled credible evidence to sustain their petition, as formulated by the Tribunal.”
Justice Bako however ruled that the signatures of most of the 135 witnesses the petitioners presented in their written statements, as deposed before the Tribunal did not match with the specimens taken while they testified in court.
The Tribunal chairman also ruled that some of the names of the witnesses did not match with the names on their INEC voter’s card which they presented before the tribunal.
He noted that under cross examination, the Tribunal discovered that most of the witnesses were not party agents and were not present at the various polling units the petitioners alleged there were irregularities.
Justice Bako further said; “They were not witnesses to the events that took place during the election as the petitioners claimed. The Tribunal is therefore of the view that the witnesses lied under oath and their evidence cannot be relied upon in taking decision here.”
The Tribunal chairman also said the petitioners presented 18 sets of documents including certified true copies of results from 12 local government areas to support their petition, adding however that the content of documents conflicted with the various pages of the petition and the testimonies of the witnesses.
Justice Bako therefore ruled that the petitioners failed to provide the substantial evidence they claimed in their petition and accordingly dismissed the petition.
In his reaction to the Tribunals ruling, the state chairman of the PDP, Mr Felix Hassan Hyat, said the party executive would meet with the counsel to enable the party and its candidate take a decision on further action just as he noted that the Tribunal’s decision is the first stage of the petition out of the three stages allowed by law.
On his part, Senator Uba Sani, said the APC and el-Rufai have been vindicated by the ruling of the Tribunal which he commended as fair.