Borno, Zamfara Governors' Elections Affirmed At Supreme Court

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ABUJA, February 17, (THEWILL) – The elections of the governors of Borno and Zamfara States have been upheld by the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

Governors Kashim Shettima (Borno) and Abdula'Aziz Yari Abubakar (Zamfara) both of the All Nigeria Peoples party (ANPP) had their elections upheld in two separate rulings delivered on Friday, where the court dismissed the petitions filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

In the case of Borno the decision of the state election tribunal which had earlier upheld the governor's election was upheld while that of the Court of Appeal which ordered a fresh trial was set aside.

Similarly, the PDP also failed in its bid to nullify the election of Zamfara State Governor, as the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal.

In a unanimous decision, the apex court held that the Borno Governorship Election Tribunal failed to deliver its judgment within 180 days as stipulated by law.

The court averred that an election tribunal in an election petition matter must deliver its judgment in writing within the 180 days from the date the petition was filed as stipulated by law.

Justice Walter Onnoghen who read the lead judgment of the court said: "It means the judgment cannot be given from the date or more or even an hour after the 180 days from the date the petition was filed."

He cited section 285 (6) of the 1999 constitution as amended.

He said it was not in dispute between the parties that at the time the Court of Appeal ordered a re-trial of the election petition, the 180 days allowed for the hearing and determination of the petition had lapsed.

"The question is not whether the Court of Appeal has jurisdiction to hear and determine an appeal and give order which the justice of the case demands but whether the court can legally order a re-trial of an election petition which by the admission of the 1st and 2nd respondents (Alhaji Goni Mohammed and the PDP) had lapsed. What would be the effect of such an order. Is it not a clear case of an exercise in futility?

"I am compelled by circumstances beyond my control to state, without fear of contradiction as same has been settled by a long line of authorities, that jurisdiction is a creation of statute or the constitution."

Justice Onnoghen said Jurisdiction is not inherent in an appellate court neither can it be conferred on a court by order of court.

"In the instant case the jurisdiction of the election petition tribunal and that of the Court of Appeal to hear and determine appeals from the said tribunal is statutory and constitutional."

He consequently dismissed the petition by the PDP and its governorship candidate, Alhaji Mohammed Goni for lacking in merit.

In another judgment delivered by Justice Muhammad Muntaka-Coomassie, the apex court held that PDP also failed to produce evidence to support its petition that the governorship election in Zamfara was not won by the ANPP.

The court held that the PDP instead of supporting its petition with credible evidence chose to capitalise on the failure of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to call evidence to prove that the governorship election in Zamfara was conducted in accordance with the Electoral Act.

The court held that PDP seemed to have forgotten the correct position of law that the onus was on it to prove all the issues raised in its petition.

It further held that INEC was not bound to call evidence to assist PDP in proving its case adding that the party could only succeed exclusively on the evidence called by it.

Consequently, the court upheld the concurrent judgments of both the appeal court and the election tribunal and dismissed the suit.