Nyako cleared of election fraud
A unanimous decision of the apex court affirmed the ruling of the lower courts.
Mr. Nyako’s election was challenged by the candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria,ACN, Markus Gundiri.
Dismissing the appeal, the apex court held that the appellants failed to prove the criminal allegations they made against the respondents: Mr. Nyako, and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The court further held that where criminal allegations are made, the burden is on the appellants to prove beyond reasonable doubt.
Consequently, Clara Ogunbiyi who read the lead judgement held that, “If the criminal allegations had permeated the entire election, it means there is nothing left of civil allegation and the appellants have completely shut out themselves by relying on civil allegations; the appellants are neither here nor there. The determination of some of the issues was predicated on severance of pleadings and the demarcation should have been clear-cut and well-defined.”
“On the totality of this appeal, I hold the firm view that the appeal is devoid of any merit and is accordingly dismissed,” she said.
Tuesday’s ruling is the culmination of a series of legal battles which started at the election tribunal, through to the Court of Appeal and finally the Supreme Court.
Mr. Gundiri had dragged Mr. Nyako to the election tribunal, sitting in Yola and presided over by Bitrus Sanga, shortly after the governor was declared the winner of the governorship election held on January 14.
Mr. Gundiri challenged election results in 11 out of the 21 Local Government Areas in the state. According to the ACN candidate, the PDP and its candidate had falsified results in Yola North, Yola South, Numan, Demsa, Toungo, Mubi North, Maiha, Fufore, Girei, Madagali, and Mr. Nyako’s home local government of Mayo Belwa.
The ACN candidate sought for and got the tribunal’s permission to inspect election materials using biometric and forensic machines in the aforementioned local governments. However, the ACN and INEC got into another debacle over the period within which such inspection would last.
While the ACN believed the ruling did not specify the period within which the inspection must be concluded, INEC insisted that ACN had only two weeks from the date the order was given on March 30.
After the completion of the inspection exercise, the tribunal under Mr. Sanga delivered its ruling on July 25.
Mr. Sanga ruled that the petition filed by Mr. Gundiri against the election of Mr. Nyako lacked merit in its entirety. In the ruling that lasted nearly five hours, the judge said that the petitioner could not prove his case, due to lack of substantial evidence, that the election was not conducted in compliance with the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended.
Not satisfied with the ruling, Mr. Gundiri and the ACN approached the Court of Appeal, sitting in Yola asking it to set aside the ruling of the election tribunal.
The presiding judge, Zainab Bulkachuwa, who delivered the ruling of the Appeal Court on Saturday, September 22, agreed with the judgement of the tribunal and dismissed the petition. Ms. Bulkachuwa said the appellant “was unable to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt,” and therefore decided to adopt the decision of the trial court.
“This appeal is completely lacking in merit,” Ms. Bulkachuwa said while delivering judgement on a Saturday night, two days after commencing the trial.
However, the opposition party headed for the Supreme Court as according to Mr. Gundiri’s running mate, Abdulrazak Namdas, shortly after the judgement, “there is no way that the panel went through the judgment of the trial court thoroughly, because judgment was hastily given in order to beat the constitutional requirement of delivering judgment within 180 days of election.”
“It is very obvious that the judges did not have time to go through the judgment of the trial court which has over three volumes with over 400 pages in just three days except if it only wants to rubber stamp the judgment of the lower court,” Mr. Namdas stated.
The Supreme Court panel of seven justices, headed by Walter Onnoghen, has now agreed with the ruling of the lower courts and dismissed the petition brought in by the ACN candidate.
The apex court affirmed that Mr. Nyako was duly elected on January 14 as the governor of Adamawa State.