The last may not have been heard about post-election cases in many states as the fate of no fewer than 13 governors depends on the outcome of lawsuits challenging their electoral victory at the Supreme Court.
The affected states where the Court of Appeal judgments are being challenged by the opposition candidates in the March 18 governorship election include Kano, Plateau, Abia, Delta, Cross River, Rivers, Lagos, Sokoto, Nasarawa, Benue, Akwa Ibom, Taraba and Bauchi.
Teams of lawyers representing some of the aggrieved parties in the affected states have formally filed their processes in court as at last Friday while others who had vowed to approach the Supreme Court are expected to file their papers during the week at the registry of the court.
Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, is also expected to appoint justices to hear the cases soon.
This is the last stage of the battle for the governors’ seats across the states where elections were held on March 18.
In essence, any governor who loses the case at the Supreme Court has to vacate office.
This is unlike the outcomes of the election dispute cases at the lower courts (election petition tribunal and the Court of Appeal) which permitted the governors to stay in office regardless of whether they won or lost.
The Supreme Court decision on appeals arising from the decision of the lower courts on gubernatorial elections in the country is final.
Between 1999 when the Fourth Republic birthed and 2019, not less than eight sitting governors whose elections were challenged to the Supreme Court were removed from office by the apex bench.
For instance, the apex court, in 2006, removed from office Dr Chris Ngige who was declared as the winner of the 2003 gubernatorial election in Anambra State when Ngige had almost completed his four-year tenure and replaced him with Mr Peter Obi of APGA. Peter Obi was eventually sworn in on March 17, 2006.
It had also towards the end of October 2007 sacked Chief Celestine Omehia who was sworn into office on May 29, 2007 as Rivers State Governor and ordered the immediate past Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Hon Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, to be sworn-in as replacement having been found to be the authentic candidate of the PDP which was returned as winner of the April 2007 election in the state.
Omehia had ruled Rivers for five months before the Supreme Court sacked him and declared Amaechi as the validly elected governor of the state.
Other sitting governors who had, in the past, lost their seats to their rivals by virtue of the decision of the Supreme Court included Andy Uba of Anambra State who was sacked for Peter Obi, Prof Oserheimen Osunbor of Edo State who was sacked for Adams Oshiomhole, Olusegun Oni of Ekiti State who was sacked for Kayode Fayemi, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola of Osun State who was sacked for Rauf Aregbesola, Mukhtar Idris of Zamfara State who was sacked for Bello Matawalle, Emeka Ihedioha of Imo State who was sacked for Hope Uzodinma and David Lyon of Bayelsa State who was sacked for Douye Diri.
Apart from Kano State governor, Yusuf Abba, and Governor Caleb Muftwang of Plateau, the Appeal Court sitting in Abuja and Lagos had recently affirmed other governors’ victories at the March 18 election.
But the verdicts only left many opponents more aggrieved, forcing them to approach the apex court for justice.
Some of the judgments like the Kano and Plateau cases where the incumbents were sacked ended up heightening tensions in the respective states.
At the moment, both states appear to be sitting on a keg of gunpowder as they await the verdict of the Supreme Court.
Of the 36 states of the federation, elections were held in 28 states, with the All Progressives Congress, APC, winning 16, PDP, 9, Labour Party, LP, one, and New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, one.
The states include Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Enugu, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara.
But in what seems to have underscored the reading of the Supreme Court through its past decisions, some candidates had declined to challenge the Appeal Court judgments, describing any attempt at such as a futile effort.
However, others who vowed to challenge the verdicts at the Supreme Court have either approached the court, stoking tensions in the process, or on their way to lodge their processes at the registry of the apex court.
According to the law, an appeal to the Supreme Court should be filed within 14 days from the date of the judgment of the Court of Appeal.
The apex court has 60 days to hear the cases and deliver judgment.
The state-by-state analysis of the issue reveals reasons opponents are in court as well the pulse of the people ahead of the Supreme Court cases.
Governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the March 18, 2023 governorship election in Sokoto State, Mallam Saidu Umar, alongside his party, has filed an appeal against the judgment of the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja had upheld the election of Governor Ahmed Aliyu Sokoto as the winner of the election.
In a notice of appeal submitted to the Supreme Court, the appellants listed the incumbent governor, Ahmed Aliyu Sokoto, his deputy, Mohammed Gobir Idris, APC, and Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, as respondents.
Umar and the PDP also listed nine grounds upon which they are asking the Supreme Court to set aside the concurrent judgments of the election petition tribunal and the Court of Appeal, which affirmed the election of Ahmed Aliyu Sokoto as governor.
The PDP in Lagos State said it has resolved to challenge the Court of Appeal judgment affirming Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu (APC) as the winner of the March 18 governorship election.
State Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Hakeem Amode, disclosed this in a chat.
The party had earlier said it would review the judgment of the Court of Appeal before taking further action on the matter.
According to him, justice has not been properly served in the PDP governorship candidate, Olajide Adediran’s petitions against Sanwo-Olu’s re-election.
The PDP governorship candidate in Nasarawa State, David Ombugadu, has approached the Supreme Court to nullify the victory of Governor Abdullahi Sule.
A copy of the notice of appeal filed by his legal team listed INEC, Sule Audu Alhaji, and APC as respondents.
The Court of Appeal in Abuja affirmed the election of Abdullahi Sule as governor of Nasarawa State on November 23, 2023.
The appellate court, in a unanimous decision by a three-member panel of justices, voided the verdict of the Nasarawa State governorship election petition tribunal, which sacked Governor Sule, candidate of APC.
Dissatisfied by the dismissal of his suit challenging the victory of Governor Hyacinth Alia by the Court of Appeal, PDP governorship candidate in Benue State in the last general elections, Titus Tyoapine Uba, said he would approach the Supreme Court for final arbitration on the matter.
A statement by the state Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Chief Bemgba Iortyom, said the poll was won by Uba.
A three-man panel of justices at Appeal Court Abuja Division had dismissed the case filed by the PDP and its candidate seeking a declaration that both Alia and his deputy, Dr Sam Odeh, were not qualified to contest in the election.
The Appeal Court, in a unanimous judgment, held that Uba and PDP failed to prove allegations of forgery against Odeh, while others were pre-election issues which were statute barred.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court upon receipt of the appeal from the appellants, ordered that all processes relating to the matter be served on the governor and his deputy through substituted service.
The court gave the order while ruling on an ex parte application filed by the counsel of the PDP and Uba.
It also fixed December 18, 2023, as the return date for proof of service on the respondents.
In Rivers State, governorship candidate of LP, Beatrice Itubo, said she has directed her legal team to challenge the Appeal Court judgment validating the victory of Governor Sim Fubara at the Supreme Court.
Recall that a three-man panel of Appeal Court Justices dismissed Itubo’s petition alongside the petition of the governorship candidate of APC ,Tonye Cole, for lacking in merit.
Reacting to the ruling during a forum with the leadership of the South-South Youth Initiative, Itubo said although she is pleased with the activities of Fubara, her decision to challenge the judgment is to ensure justice is served.
In Plateau, the state government said it has instructed its lawyers to file an appeal at the Supreme Court against the verdict of the Court of Appeal which sacked Governor Caleb Muftwang from office.
A three-member panel, in a unanimous decision, held that Muftwang was not validly sponsored by the PDP as provided by Section 285(2) of the Constitution.
According to a statement, the governor expressed “strong optimism that the mandate overwhelmingly given to him by the people of Plateau State would be restored, as he has instructed his legal team to file an appeal at the Supreme Court.”
The Court of Appeal verdict has resulted in a charged political atmosphere across the state.
The victory of Governor Umo Eno of Akwa Ibom State is still being contested.
According to the governorship results declared by INEC, Eno polled 354,348 votes to emerge winner of the election, while Senator Bassey Akpan of the Young Progressives Party, YPP, followed with 136,262 votes. Obong Akan Udofia of the APC scored 129,602 votes.
Apart from the YPP and APC governorship candidates, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe of the NNPP, Ezekiel Nyak-Etok of African Democratic Congress, ADC, Mr Abraham Akpan of the Action Alliance, AA, and Emem Coffie of the Accord Party, AP, also challenged the outcome of the election.
On November 10, 2023, the Court of Appeal reaffirmed Eno as the validly elected governor and dismissed the appeals filed by the governorship candidates of AA and AP.
The three-man panel of the Appeal Court, Lagos Division ruled that the cases lacked merit.
The Appeal Court also quashed the appeals by the candidates of APC, YPP and NNPP for lacking merit
The court ruled that the appellants missed the point by arguing that since they were not parties in the case, the judgment on Eno’s certificate matter was not binding on them.
“The declaratory judgment of a competent court is a judgment in rem that is binding on the whole world, and not only on those who were parties in the case,” it said.
Aggrieved parties have since approached the Supreme Court, challenging the ruling.
Prof Sandy Onor, the PDP governorship candidate in Cross River, has relentlessly tried to upturn the outcome of the March governorship election result in his favour.
He started litigation soon after Governor Bassey Otu picked the ticket of APC.
Onor alleged that Otu does not possess the prerequisite qualification to contest the election, claiming his West African School Certificate and degree certificates were forged.
He also claimed Otu’s running mate, Mr Odey, has United Kingdom citizenship.
The state High Court Calabar where he took the matter ruled in favour of the governor.
Not satisfied with the ruling, he proceeded to the Appeal Court in Calabar which again ruled in favour of Otu.
After the declaration of the election results which he lost including his polling unit, Onor still instituted the same issues at the Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Calabar.
But the tribunal struck out all three grounds of the petition by the PDP governorship candidate, saying the petition was incompetent, shambolic and a mere academic exercise.
All the three judges, Justice Okenya Inneh, Justice M Omar and Justice O Olatawusu, read their judgment in favour of Otu
The tribunal did not award costs.
But this was not the situation at the Appeal Court, Lagos Division where Onor headed after the tribunal ruling.
He was fined N4million for wasting the court’s time.
Not satisfied, Onor has taken the matter to the Supreme Court.
At press time, it was not yet clear if there was any pending appeal against the election of Governor Alex Otti of Abia State at the Supreme Court.
Although the PDP, APC, and their candidates, Chief Okey Ahiwe and Chief Ikechi Emenike, respectively, had challenged Otti at both the tribunal and Court of Appeal, they lost.
In their respective initial responses after losing out at the Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos, both parties had vowed to proceed to the apex court in pursuit of justice.
Ever since the Appeal Court sitting in Abuja nullified the victory of Kano State governor, Abba Yusuf, the ancient city of Kano has been gripped by tension.
The appellate court, in a unanimous decision by a three-member panel of justices, held that 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 the governor was not a member of NNPP at the time the election was held.
There had been several interpretations of the judgment following a difference between what was read in the court and the contents of the Certified True Copy, CTC, of the judgment.
At the court, the three-member panel, led by M. A. Adumein, upheld the judgment of the Kano State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, which sacked Yusuf.
But in the concluding part of the CTC, it read that the issue was resolved against the APC and its candidate.
Consequently, Yusuf filed an appeal at the Supreme Court challenging his dismissal.
In the notice of appeal filed by the NNPP, INEC and APC were joined as respondents.
The document, which listed 10 grounds of appeal against the judgment of the appellate court, is seeking three reliefs from the apex court.
They include “an order allowing the appeal and setting aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal delivered on November 17, 2023, an order upholding the portion of the judgment of the Court of Appeal setting aside the judgment of the trial tribunal in petition No: EPT/RV/GOV/11/2023 and making an order as costs in favour of the appellant.”
The matter has generated so much interest, with several stakeholders calling on all parties to tread with caution.
There is uneasy calm among supporters of the governor and APC candidate, Nasiru Gawuna.
Following the judgment of the Court of Appeal affirming the victory of Governor Bala Mohammed of the PDP, the major opposition candidate, Air Marshal Saddique Abubakar, retd, of the APC, has headed to the Supreme Court.
The judgment, which was earlier slated for December 18, was adjourned to an unknown date. This has created anxiety among politicians and their supporters in the state.
In Taraba State, the gubernatorial candidate of NNPP, Professor Sani Yahaya, rejected the judgment of the Appeal Court affirming the victory of Governor Kefas Agbu in the March 18 election.
The Court of Appeal had dismissed the appeal by Yahaya.
Yahaya and his party had challenged the result of the election on the grounds of non-compliance with the Electoral Act, stating that Agbu didn’t score the majority of lawful votes cast.
But delivering judgment, the appellate court held that the reliefs sought by the NNPP candidate were inconsistent having faulted the outcome of the polls on grounds of non-compliance with the Electoral Act, yet praying the court to declare him winner of the same election.
The fears that had gripped Delta State weeks before the November 24, 2023, Court of Appeal judgment seem to be no more after the appellate court in Lagos affirmed Governor Sheriff Oborevwori as the duly elected governor of the state.
The Delta State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, sitting in Asaba, had, September 29, upheld the declaration of Oborevwori as winner of the March 18 governorship election by INEC.
The electoral body said Oborevwori won the election after securing 360,234 votes to defeat Senator Ovie Omo-Agege of the APC, who scored 240,229 votes. However, dissatisfied with the appellate court’s ruling, Omo-Agege and his Social Democratic Party, SDP, counterpart, Kenneth Gbagi, have since headed to the Supreme Court to challenge the verdict.
Omo-Agege, who is the immediate past Deputy Senate President, is seeking to be declared the winner of the polls.
Gbagi, who is also challenging the outcome of the election, in addition, is seeking the disqualification of Oborevwori and the gubernatorial candidates of all other political parties that contested with him in the governorship election.
No date has been fixed for the commencement of the hearing at the apex court, News Direct learnt.