June 17, 2024

The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the election of Umar Ahmadu Fintiri as the validly elected Governor of Adamawa State.

In a unanimous judgment, the court dismissed the appeal by Senator Aisha Dahiru Binani of the All Progressives Congress (APC) against the outcome of the March 18, 2023 governorship election in the state for lacking in merit.

In a unanimous judgment delivered by Justice John Inyang Okoro, the Supreme Court held that the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) who declared Binani winner of the governorship election engaged in act of criminality and irresponsibility.

Justice John Okoro in his judgment held that Binani engaged in self deceit by hanging to the unlawful and unconstitutional acts of the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) to hold herself out as winner of the governorship election.

The apex court held that the REC had no power under any known law to declare election results as he did in the Adamawa governorship election results.

Justice Okoro maintained that the only person vested with power to make declaration on election is the Returning Officer (RO) appointed by the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC and no other person.

The Supreme Court said that the mere declaration of Binani and APC as winners by the REC was not in anyway helpful to them adding the REC ought to have appeared before the Adamawa State Election Petitions Tribunal to give evidence, defend and justify the declaration he made.

Justice Okoro held that Binani and APC did not in anywhere establish with any oral or documentary exhibits that they won majority of lawful votes cast at the election other than the purported declaration made by the REC.

“From the evidence adduced, the election of March 18 was inconclusive. A supplementary election was ordered and conducted. While the results of the supplementary election was being awaited, the REC did what he did.”

“The questions are why was the Resident Electoral Commissioner so hasty, what motivated him, why did he take up the function of the Returning Officer?.

“The REC ought to have been a vita witness for the appellants (Binani and APC) to make some clarifications. In his absence, there is nothing the Court can do.

“It must however be clearly stated here that the REC acted ultra vires. He is not competent to announce election results. It is the express duty of INEC to give duty and responsibility and by evidence here, the duty was donated to the Returning Officer.

“By that singular act, it is the Returning Officer and no other person that can announce election results. It is exclusively for the Returning Officer.

“The announcement of the results by the Resident Electoral Commissioner in the instant case, is illegal, unlawful, null and void. He acted with unbridled effrontery. It is an act of irresponsibility and criminality and should not be allowed.

“It is only the Returning Officer that is vested with power to make declaration of election results and this is to avoid chaos,” Justice Okoro said.

He warned public officers to always act within the law in the discharge of responsibilities and not get carried away by greed adding that acting in contrary to the provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act in the discharge of public duties is completely illegal.

In the absence of evidence of scoring majority of lawful votes, Justice Okoro dismissed Binani’s petition and upheld the concurrent findings of the Adamawa State Election Petitions Tribunal and the Court of Appeal which had earlier dismissed the petition by Binani and PC.

The Court of Appeal in Abuja had on Monday December 18, 2023 dismissed the petition by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its governorship candidate, Senator Aisha Dahiru Binani seeking to invalidate the election of Umar Ahmadu Fintiri as the duly elected governor of Adamawa State.

The Appellate Court held that Governor Fintiri of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP was lawfully declared the winner of the poll by the Adamawa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal.

A judgment written by Justice Tunde Oyebanji Awotoye threw out the case of Binani and APC on various grounds of abnormalities.

Among the grounds, the Appeal Court held that Binani and APC failed to call polling agents who participated in the conduct of the election as witnesses but unfortunately called Campaign Coordinators who were not at the election venue.

Justice Awotoye said the three witnesses called to establish malpractices in 27 Local Government Areas who were Campaign Coordinators are mere hearsay witnesses having not been party agents.

The Court held that it is against the law to attach probate values to the testimony of the Campaign Coordinators since such is worthless in the face of the law.

Besides, Justice Awotoye said that the brief of argument filed by Binani and APC was in contravention of the law, hence, incompetent and deserved to be ignored.

Also, Justice Awotoye held that the records of appeal transmitted to the Court of Appeal by Binani and APC were not complete and insufficient for the Court to make any finding.

The Court declared as an illegal act the declaration of Binani and APC as winners of the election adding that the only authority to make a declaration is the Returning Officer.

The Court also said it was wrong for Binani to be taking Panadol for the headache of the Resident Electoral Commissioner REC who opted to take laws into his hand.

“In the eyes of the law, the Resident Electoral Commissioner is on his own. He should be allowed to take responsibility for his illegal and unlawful act.”

The unanimous judgment had dismissed the appeal in its entirety and awarded a cost of N1m to be paid to Fintiri and PDP by Binani and APC.

The Adamawa State Governorship Electoral Petitions Tribunal had, in October, dismissed the petition filed by Binani seeking Fintiri’s sack from office.

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