Election Petitions: Four State Governors removed by Courts and reasons for their removal
In the last nine months, no fewer than four state governors have been sacked following the hearing of various petitions submitted against their election by their major opponents at the last February 25 governorship election held across the country. Crime Channels chronicles the four state governors sacked so far and the various legal grounds upon which their dismissals were premised.
*Caleb Mutfwang (PDP)*
The latest of them is the Plateau State governor, Caleb Mutfwang of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The Appeal Court in Abuja on Sunday has sacked the Plateau governor, Mutfwang, on the ground of gross violation of the 2022 Electoral Acts.
In her ruling on Sunday, the lead Justice, Elfrieda Williams-Dawodu, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue a Certificate of Return to the candidate of the All Progressive Congress, Nentawe Goshwe.
Justice Williams-Dawodu set aside the judgment of the Tribunal which affirmed the election of Governor Mutfwang, describing it as highly incompetent.
According to the court, the decision of the tribunal to dismiss the petition filed by the APC and its candidate on the ground that the duo had no business meddling in the affairs of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on which platform Mutfwang was elected is in breach of Section 177 of the 1999 Constitution as amended and Section 134 (C) of the Electoral Act.
The court also held that contrary to the decision of the tribunal that the issues contained in the petition filed by the appellants were pre-election matters, they were both pre-election and post-election matters and could not have been deemed status barred.
Citing section 177 of the Constitution, the panel noted that Mutfwang was not validly sponsored by the PDP during the election.
It held that the party violated the court order that a valid congress be conducted in the 17 local government areas of that state, by conducting congress in only five local government areas of the state, and as such is a nullity.
While dismissing the decision of Plateau State Election Petitions Tribunal, the court held that the issue of qualification is both a pre-election and a post-election matter contrary to the findings of the tribunal which held that the appellant lacked the locus to contest the validity of the respondent.
The court also noted that under section 134 of the Electoral Act, it is the sole right of a political party to sponsor its candidate having met the necessary requirements to do so.
While evoking section 136 of the Electoral Act, the court ordered INEC to retrieve the certificate of return issued to Governor Mutfwang and issue a fresh certificate of return to the Goshwe.
*Abba Kabir Yusuf (NNPP)*
Prior to the Plateau State governor sack, his counterpart in Kano, Abba Kabir Yusuf, had also been axed by the Appeal Court sitting in Abuja.
In its ruling last Friday, the court panel affirmed the tribunal’s decision, headed by Justice Oluyemi Akintan Osadebay, which removed Yusuf on September 20, 2023.
The lower court had invalidated 165,663 votes for Yusuf, who ran with the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP), citing their lack of signature or stamp by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The governor’s votes were then reduced to 853,939 while those of Nasir Ganuwa, his All Progressives Congress (APC) rival, remained at 890,705.
Rejecting the tribunal’s decision as unfair and a miscarriage of justice, Yusuf took the matter to the appeal court.
But the appellate court, in a unanimous decision by a three-member panel of justices, held that Governor Yusuf was not a valid candidate in the gubernatorial election held in the state on March 18.
It maintained that evidence that was adduced by the parties established that Governor Yusuf was not a member of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, at the time the election was held.
According to the court, Yusuf, under section 177(c) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, was not qualified to contest the governorship election since he was not validly sponsored by the NNPP.
*Abdullahi Sule (APC)*
Nasarawa State governor, Abdullahi Sule, is another governor, whose election has been invalidated by the court.
It will be recalled that the Nasarawa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal had in October nullified the governor’s election.
While delivering the judgment via zoom, the three-man panel led by Justice Ezekiel Ajayi, had ruled that Emmanuel Ombudagu of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is the winner of the last governorship election held in the state.
In the judgment that lasted about two hours, and 53 minutes, the judge ordered the withdrawal of the Certificate of Return from Sule, while the same should be issued to Ombugadu as the validly elected Governor of Nasarawa State.
*Dauda Lawal (PDP)*
It will be recalled that INEC had declared Dauda Lawal of the PDP as the winner of the Zamfara State governorship election, defeating the incumbent governor, Bello Matawalle of the APC.
But Matawalle, who is the current Minister of State for Defence, approached the state election petition tribunal to challenge the results of the governorship election on March 18, but it was dismissed due to lack of merit.
The minister then sought the Court of Appeal, which in its verdict on Thursday, November 16, declared the election inconclusive and ordered INEC to hold new elections in two local governments.
The court ruled that the minister was able to establish Lawal’s invalid election.