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Supreme Court dismisses Binani’s appeal, affirms Fintiri as Adamawa governor

The Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision by a five-member panel, on Wednesday, upheld the election of Governor Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa State.

 

The apex court, dismissed as lacking in merit an appeal the All Progressives Congress, APC, and its candidate, Senator Aisha Dahiru, popularly known as Binani, filed to challenge the outcome of the governorship election that was held in the state on March 18, 2023.

Delivering judgement in the matter, the apex court panel, led by Justice Inyang Okoro, held that the action of the suspended Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, in Adamawa State, Hudu Yunusa-Ari, who declared Senator Dahiru as the winner of the poll, was an act of irresponsibility and criminality.

The court held that only a Returning Officer has the duty to announce the results of an election to avert chaos and anarchy in the process.

According to the Supreme Court, the Electoral Act, 2022, specified who should declare results, stressing that such power was exclusively donated to the Returning Officer.

Consequently, it resolved all the issues that were raised in the appeal against the appellants.

The appellants, through their team of lawyers led by Chief Akinolu Olujimi, SAN, prayed the court to nullify the declaration of Fintiri of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as the valid winner of the gubernatorial contest.

They urged the Supreme Court to set aside the concurrent verdict of the Court of Appeal and the Adamawa State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, which dismissed their case and upheld Fintiri’s re-election.

Specifically, Senator Dahiru insisted that she polled the majority of valid votes cast at the election and was validly declared the winner by the state’s Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC.

She, among other things, prayed the court to determine who ought to be the bona fide Returning Officer in a gubernatorial election.

However, Fintiri, through his lawyer, Mr Damian Dodo, SAN, urged the apex court to dismiss the appeal and validate his election victory.

Fintiri argued that he emerged victorious, having secured the majority of lawful votes and fulfilled all the requirements of the law.

Likewise, both the PDP and INEC, prayed the court to dismiss the appeal and affirm Fintiri’s election victory.

Recall, the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal had, on December 18, 2023, also dismissed Senator Dahiru’s appeal, even as it awarded a cost of N1 million against her

While upholding Governor Fintiri’s election, the appellate court held that Senator Dahiru’s appeal was vague and incompetent, adding that it found no reason to compel the INEC to withdraw the Certificate of Return it earlier issued to Governor Fintiri.

Dissatisfied with the judgement, Senator Dahiru and the APC took the case to the Supreme Court, where they also lost on Wednesday.

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, announced at the end of a supplementary election held in Adamawa State that Fintiri polled 430,861 votes to defeat Senator Dahiru of the APC, who got a total of 398,788 votes.

Not happy with the outcome of the poll, Binani approached the tribunal, alleging that the election was fraught with corrupt practices and manifest non-compliance with provisions of the Electoral Act 2022.

She urged the Justice Theodora Obi Uloho-led tribunal to declare that she was the valid winner of the governorship election, a prayer the panel refused and dismissed her petition.

While affirming the decision of the tribunal, the appellate court, in its lead verdict that was read by Justice Ebiowei Tobi, held that the 27 grounds of appeal the APC candidate brought before it lacked competence.

It held that the appellants failed to, by way of credible evidence, substantiate the allegations they raised against the outcome of the election, stressing that their claim that electoral fraud took place in 14,104 polling units in the state was not proved.

More so, the court noted that the record of proceedings transmitted from the tribunal, as well as the briefs of argument that were filed by the appellants, were incomplete.

The appellate court further emphasised that only a Returning Officer at an election has the statutory power to declare the results of the election.

It will be recalled that the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja had earlier permitted INEC to prosecute its suspended REC in Adamawa State, Yunusa-Ari.

Yunusa-Ari is facing a six-count charge over an alleged unlawful role he played in the Adamawa State governorship election that was held on March 18.

INEC had initially declared that the gubernatorial election was inconclusive and ordered a supplementary poll.

However, midway into the collation of results of the supplementary poll held on April 15, the suspended Adamawa REC, Yunusa-Ari, sidelined protocols and announced the APC candidate, Binani, as the winner.

The action elicited instant reactions, with the electoral body not only voiding Yunusa-Ari’s action but equally placing him on an indefinite suspension.

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