Barristers & Solicitors
Olanipekun: A’Court Can’t Correct Clerical Errors in Kano Guber Judgment
Olanipekun: A’Court Can’t Correct Clerical Errors in Kano Guber Judgment

The dust raised by the contradictions contained in the Certified True Copy (CTC) of the Court of Appeal judgement in the Kano State governorship election has yet to settle as Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, counsel to the Kano State governor, Kabir Yusuf, has insisted that the appellate court cannot correct what it claims to be mere clerical errors, contrary to the court’s position.

Olanipekun said yesterday that the appellate court lacked the powers to effect any correction in the said judgement, having become functus officio in the case.
There are fears that the simmering political crisis in Kano State in the aftermath of the CTC discrepancies might boil over tomorrow, as stakeholders of both the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the governing New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) in the state announced plans to hold separate rallies, in defence of their differing positions.

In a related development, a three-member panel of the Court of Appeal, yesterday, reversed the sack of Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State.
The appellate court had in a unanimous judgement delivered on November 17 dismissed Yusuf’s appeal against the ruling of the Kano State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, which had sacked him, for lacking merit.
But in the CTC released to lawyers, the majority judgement delivered by Justice Moore Abraham Adumein in one breath gave judgement in favour the appellant and, in another, favoured the first respondent, APC.

Adumein had read in the open court that the “appeal lacks merit and is hereby dismissed”. But the CTC read, in part, that “the judgement of the tribunal in… is set aside”. The contradictory positions led both parties to claim victory at the appellate court.
While Deputy Chief Registrar, Court of Appeal, Kano Judicial Division, wrote to parties to return the CTC for correction, the Chief Registrar, Mohammed Bangari, noted that the errors in the CTC would be effected once parties brought a formal application to that effect.

Bangari also stressed that the errors did not in any way invalidate the judgement of the appeal court.
But Olanipekun pointed out that the appellate court lacked the powers to effect any correction in the judgement having become functus officio in the case.
In a letter to the Deputy Chief Registrar, dated November 23, 2023 and titled: RE: RETRIEVAL OF CERTIFIED TRUE COPY OF JUDGMENT IN APPEAL NO: CA/KN/EP/GOV/KAN/34/2023 – ABBA KABIR YUSUF AND ALL PROGRESSIVES CONGRESS & ORS, the lawyer stated that the appellate court was since November 18 relieved of any authority to act on the judgement.

Olanipekun said the 60 days allowed by law for the appellate court to hear and determine the appeal expired on November 18, and as such the court no longer had the power to correct any perceived error in the judgement.
He stated in the letter, “As officers in the Temple of Justice, we believe we owe the institution, as well as the respected Court of Appeal, a duty to highlight and address some very pertinent issues arising out of your said letter, including, but not limited to:
“Timely Disposal of Appeal: The judgement of the lower Tribunal was delivered on 20th September 2023. By the imperative of Section 285(7) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), the Court of Appeal had only sixty (60) days to ‘hear and dispose’ of the appeal arising from the judgement of the Tribunal. Most humbly, the Constitution applies the word ‘within’ and not ‘from’ the date of the delivery of the judgement of the Tribunal.
“Constitutional Mandate: Further to the above, the Court of Appeal, by the same constitutional dictate, had up until Saturday, November 18, 2023, to ‘hear and dispose’ of the appeal filed by our client (the appellant) to the Court of Appeal against the decision of the Governorship Election Tribunal, sitting in Kano. Several judicial precedents of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal itself abound in our Law Reports on this subject, which has now become trite.

“Function of the Court: Assuming without conceding that the judgement has some errors, whether typographical or otherwise, we humbly and dutifully draw your attention to the fact that the Court of Appeal became functus officio in the matter on Saturday, November 18, 2023.”
The letter added, “Any application for correction of errors can only be entertained by the Supreme Court. Section 285(7) of the Constitution earlier referred to becomes very handy and imperative to the effect that the Court of Appeal cannot take any further step in the appeal or subject after the expiration of sixty (60) days.”

Referencing Bangari’s assurance that the error did not in any way invalidate or change the findings and conclusion of the appeal court and that the error would be rectified once parties in the matter filed a formal application to that effect, Olanipekun pointed out that they were not aware that any of the parties had filed any application to correct any error.
The senior lawyer stated, “Even at that, judicial precedents are countless as to the procedure to follow, and which court has jurisdiction to take such an application, after the expiration of the sixty (60) days mandatorily benchmarked by the Constitution.”

Stating that November 23 made it seven days since the delivery of the judgement of the Court of Appeal, Olanipekun reminded the court that out of the 14 days mandatorily prescribed for his client to file his Notice and Grounds of Appeal to the Supreme Court, “he is left with just seven (7) days; and it is only fair that he should be allowed to exercise his constitutional right of appeal without any inhibition, within the fraction of days left for him”.
He reiterated that their response was borne out of a compelling duty and responsibility to the administration of justice, adding that it is their responsibility to draw attention to these salient statutory imperatives.

Copies of the letter were sent to the First Respondent, All Progressives Congress (APC); Second Respondent, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); and Third Respondent, New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).
The appellate court had in a unanimous judgement last week dismissed Yusuf’s appeal against the ruling of the governorship election tribunal for lacking merit. The court, in its judgement, held that the candidate of NNPP in the last governorship election in Kano State was not qualified to contest the election.
The appeal court said evidence before it showed that Yusuf was not a member of NNPP at the time he was sponsored by the party to contest the March 18 governorship election in Kano State.

Specifically, the appellate court held that NNPP breached the constitution by sponsoring Yusuf, who was not a member of the party.
Having dismissed Yusuf’s appeal, the appellate court subsequently upheld the judgement of the Kano State Election Petition Tribunal, which declared the APC candidate, Nasiru Gawuna, as the authentic winner of the March 18 poll.
INEC had announced NNPP’s Yusuf winner of the March 18 election, saying he scored 1,019,602 votes to defeat Gawuna, who got 890,705 votes.
However, following APC and Gawuna’s petition, the tribunal held that there was evidence of irregularities and corrupt practices resulting in the cancellation of over 160,000 ballot papers on the grounds that the ballot papers “were not signed or stamped by INEC”.

After the deduction of the over 160,000 votes from Yusuf’s scores, his votes then came down to about 853,939, less than the 890,705 polled by Gawuna.
The tribunal subsequently declared Gawuna authentic winner of the March 18 governorship election.
Dissatisfied with the ruling, Yusuf approached the Court of Appeal to challenge his sack by the tribunal.
The appellate court, in its judgement last Friday, dismissed the appeal on the grounds that the appellant did not provide credible and cogent reason for it to upturn the judgement of the tribunal.

The three-man panel of the court held that every political party should maintain the register of its members, adding that the appellant, to his own detriment, did not submit his NNPP membership register or even tender his statement on oath regarding his membership of the party.
The court said the 1999 Constitution made it mandatory for a political party to have a membership register and submit the same to INEC and the tribunal when needed. It added that Yusuf’s name was not in the NNPP membership register.
The appeal court held, “As rightfully found, Yusuf Abba was not a member of the NNPP at the time he was purportedly sponsored by his party and he was not qualified to contest the March governorship eection.

“If you claim to be a member of a political party, is it not logical for you to say so by yourself and not by proxy? Even though membership of a political party is an internal affair, a political party cannot be permitted to circumvent or breach the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
“The tribunal was wrong not to have disqualified the appellant. Therefore, the failure of the appellant and the NNPP to comply with the 1999 Constitution is fatal to their election. All issues in this appeal are dismissed and the judgement of the tribunal is affirmed.”

But the CTC of the majority judgement dated November 21 and signed by one of the court’s registrars, Ibrahim Umar, read, in part, on page 67, “I will conclude by stating that the live issues in this appeal are hereby resolved in favour of the first respondent and against the appellant.
“In the circumstances, I resolve all the issues in favour of the appellant and against the first respondent. Thereby, I find no merit in this appeal, which is liable to be and is hereby dismissed.

“The judgment of the tribunal in Petition No: EPT/KN/GOV/01/2023 between All Progressives Congress (APC) versus Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and 2 others delivered on September 20, 2023 is hereby set aside.
“The sum of N1 million is hereby awarded as cost in favour of the appellant and against first respondent.”
The contradictions generated huge controversies leading to protest in Kano by supporters of NNPP.

NNPP, APC Hold Rally Tomorrow in Kano

The political crisis rocking Kano State might boil over tomorrow following the announcement by stakeholders of APC and NNPP that they would stage separate rallies.
The announcements came as Yoruba residents in Kano, under the aegis of Concerned Yoruba Community, urged President Bola Tinubu to stop interfering in the court case between APC and NNPP, because it put their lives at risk.

Addressing a press conference at the national secretariat in Abuja on behalf of the Kano APC stakeholders, Director General, Garo Campaign Organisation, Rabiu Bichi, noted that since the conduct of the 2023 governorship election and the declaration of NNPP as the winner, the ruling APC as a peace-loving party had remained calm and shunned any form of violence.
Bichi stated that APC rejected the outcome of the election and sought to reclaim its mandate through the appropriate channel as laid down in the Electoral Act and the Nigerian constitution.

He stressed that after filing its case at the state Governorship Election Petition Tribunal that sat in Kano, APC patiently pursued it for months up to the pronouncement stage, where the three-man panel of judges fixed the date for the judgement.
He said, “However, sensing defeat, the NNPP resorted to threatening to kill the judges of the tribunal should the verdict of the court eventually be announced and not in their favour.”

Bichi alleged that the threats by the NNPP government’s cabinet members, including that by Secretary to the Kano State Government, Baffa Bichi, “forced the tribunal to deliver its judgement via Zoom for fear of their lives”.
He added that things appeared to be getting worse since the embattled leader of NNPP, Senator Rabi’u Kwankwaso, came back to Kano, where he held a meeting of the party’s stakeholders.

Bichi stated that at the end of the meeting, they came up with activities that included unleashing violence to not only eliminate APC in Kano but also to make it ungovernable in the event of a Supreme Court judgement in favour of APC.
He stated, “We have it from reliable sources that they are planning a mass protest on Saturday during which key figures of the APC will be targeted, if possible to eliminate them.
“It is on this note that we called the Kano State police command and other security agencies to be alive to their responsibilities and take measures to avoid loss of life and property.

“In defence of democracy and peace in the state, we are holding a rally on Saturday in Kano.”
Asked if there won’t be a clash between APC and NNPP, Bichi noted Kano was big enough and assured that there wouldn’t be any clash.
At their own press conference in Kano, leader of Concerned Yoruba Community, Taofeek Olalekan Olaosebikan, warned that removing Governor Abba Yusuf would not augur well for the Yoruba community in Kano.

Olaosebikan said, “There is a negative notion going around that people were denied what they have elected because the president is Yoruba, a situation that is endangering their lives as Yoruba living in Kano.”
The group warned that removing Yusuf as governor was very worrisome as the unfolding political situation would have adverse effects on the Yoruba living in the state.

Olaosebikan stated, “Kano is a very volatile state politically and this is the reason why all men and women of goodwill should be concerned about the situation in Kano and rally around towards a collective initiative to save the state from any calamity, which will affect us and our livelihood.
“In this regard, we are using this platform to call on all Yoruba Obas and leaders of thought to wade into the Kano situation without further delay by engaging President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for a possible political settlement of the Kano logjam.”

Olaosebikan added that Kano must not be allowed to erupt into a preventable chaos, as it happened in the past.

According to him, “Of course, many enlightened minds believe very strongly that what we are witnessing in Kano, today, has a strong relationship with political elite interference in the political result and mandate so obviously given to Abba Kabir Yusuf by the citizens of the state.

“Despite the pronouncement by the courts, we must never forget that Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf’s party won in 2019 but we’re denied the victory. Now, in 2023, the same scenario is unfolding, which is already being met with resistance.”

The group called on former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi, to intervene.

It also called on the Oba of Lagos, Alake of Egba, Awujale of Ijebuland, Olubadan of Ibadan, and other Yoruba leading lights to come to their aid, claiming that it would not be easy for them if the situation deteriorated.

Appeal Court Reverses Sack of Governor Sule of Nasarawa State

A three-member panel of the Court of Appeal, yesterday, reversed the sack of Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State.

The panel, in a judgement, held that the Nasarawa State Election Petition Tribunal erred in law in concluding that Sule did not win majority of the votes cast in the election.

The appellate court subsequently set aside the judgement of the tribunal and affirmed the re-election of Sule as Governor of Nasarawa State.

INEC had declared Sule winner of the March 18 governorship election, saying he won majority of lawful votes cast at the poll. It said Sule scored a total of 347,209 votes, whereas his closest rival, David Ombugadu of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), scored a total of 283,016 votes to come second.

However, Sule’s election was nullified by the election petitions tribunal on the grounds of alleged over-voting. The tribunal deducted 1,868 votes from four polling units, which had accrued to Sule and his party, APC, to return Ombugadu as winner of the March 18 governorship election.

The tribunal, in its split judgement of two-to-one, ordered INEC to withdraw the certificate of return it issued to Sule and give a fresh one to Ombugadu of PDP.

Dissatisfied with the ruling, Sule approached the appellate court to challenge the decision.

The appellate court, in a unanimous decision, faulted the sack of Sule and subsequently voided the judgement of the tribunal.

Justice Uchechukwu Onyemenam, who delivered the lead judgement of the panel, held that the tribunal breached the principle of fair-hearing when it refused to rule on the preliminary objection of the respondents challenging the competence of the petition and the jurisdiction of the court.

While holding that the issue of jurisdiction was fundamental, the court held that the failure of the tribunal to rule one way or the other in the respondent’s application challenging the competence of the petition and the court’s jurisdiction, rendered the judgement invalid.

Besides, the court held that the tribunal erred in law, when it held that there was a case of over-voting at the March 18 governorship election that produced Sule as governor for a second term. It said for over-voting to be proved, the petitioners must provide the voters register, BVAS machines and forms EC8As used in the election in addition to oral evidence.

While observing that the respondents belatedly brought the BVAS machines and other documents to prove allegations of over-voting, the panel stated that the documents were “simply dumped on the tribunal”.

Onyemenam pointed out that the evidence were not admissible in law.

It was also the position of the appellate court that the “tribunal was in error when it deducted the votes from the appellant’s score when the first respondent did not prove over-voting”.

The appellate court also held that the tribunal was wrong to have admitted and relied on the evidence of some witnesses, whose statements of oaths were not filed alongside the petition and such statements frontloaded to parties in the petition.

It said once the time limit for filing had elapsed, the content could not be amended, adding that any witness whose statement is not frontloaded their evidence cannot be admitted to vary the petition.

The witnesses whose statements were not filed alongside the petition and frontloaded to parties included: P5, P6, P 7, P8, P12, P13, P20 and P21.

Onyemenam held that where a court relied on such witnesses’ statements, “it is the duty of the Court of Appeal to ensure that such evidences are expunged from the lower court’s judgement. Their evidence and all exhibits tendered through them are incompetent and accordingly struck out.”

It further held that the evidence of the remaining witnesses could not sustain the judgement of the tribunal, having expunged the evidence relied upon in deducting votes accrued to Sule.

The appellate court further faulted the tribunal for re-computing votes in some polling units in favour of the first respondent.

“On the whole, I hold that this appeal has merit and succeeds, the majority judgement of the tribunal delivered on October 2 is hereby dismissed,” Onyemenam held.

“I make an order affirming the declaration of Abdullahi Sule of the All Progressives Congress as duly re-elected Governor of Nasarawa State,” the judge added.

Meanwhile, Speaker of Nasarawa State House of Assembly, Ibrahim Abdullahi, hailed the judgement of the appeal court, which affirmed Sule as the duly elected governor of Nasarawa State.

Abdullahi congratulated Sule and APC on the victory. He also felicitated with the people of the state, and stressed that Sule’s victory was a victory for peace, unity and sustainable development of the state and economic prosperity.

He called on all the parties to set aside their differences and join hands with the governor to build Nasarawa State for the benefit of all.