The Supreme Court is currently engaged in the judgement phase of an appeal concerning the Kano State governorship election. Governor Abba Yusuf, a member of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), contested the verdicts of the Kano State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal and the Court of Appeal in Abuja, which nullified his election. Nasiru Gawuna, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, challenged the outcome, alleging electoral malpractices.
Governor Yusuf had been declared the winner of the Kano State governorship election held on March 18 by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). However, the lower courts upheld Gawuna’s case, leading to the ongoing appeal.
The central contention revolves around the nullification of Governor Yusuf’s victory due to alleged non-compliance with electoral guidelines, particularly the failure of INEC to stamp, date, and sign ballot papers. Yusuf’s lawyer, Wole Olanipekun, argued that this issue, based on INEC guidelines, does not warrant the cancellation of an election.
During the proceedings, Olanipekun highlighted that an expert witness testified that only about 1,800 ballots were not signed or stamped, challenging the nullification of 165,616 votes. He emphasized that such irregularities should not lead to the punishment of the candidate but rather address the responsibilities of the electoral commission.
Additionally, the question of Governor Yusuf’s membership in the NNPP was raised. Olanipekun contended that this matter is an internal affair of the party and outside the jurisdiction of the courts.
INEC’s lawyer, Abubakar Mahmoud, argued that the electoral commission provided the ballots, and the alleged irregularities were not significant enough to warrant the annulment of the election. He emphasized that voters are not obligated to check ballot authenticity on election day.
On the issue of Yusuf’s party membership, Mahmoud stated it is an internal matter and not a constitutional breach. He pointed out that the APC did not challenge Yusuf’s membership when INEC published his name before the election.
Akin Olujimi, counsel for the APC, supported the lower courts’ decisions, citing Section 177(c) of the Constitution as a key factor. He argued that the constitutional issue provides the court with jurisdiction.
The Supreme Court is expected to deliver its judgment on this critical matter, shaping the future course of the Kano State governorship. The appeal lapsed on January 14, 2024, requiring a timely resolution within the statutory 60-day period for governorship election disputes.