EL-RUFAI vs ASHIRU: TRIBUNAL TO RULE ON THE 9TH

The Kaduna State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal will on Monday, Sept 9, rule on the petition challenging the re-election of Gov. Nasiru El-Rufai of Kaduna state.

The Tribunal Secretary, Mrs Hafsat Suleiman, disclosed this to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Saturday in Kaduna.

Suleiman said the Tribunal concluded its sitting on Aug. 19 and has fixed Monday, Sept. 9, to pass its verdict on the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The PDP and its governorship candidate in the March 9 poll, Alhaji Isah Ashiru, had petitioned the Tribunal asking it to nullify El-Rufai’s election.

The petitioners in their final written address, asked the Tribunal to cancel a total of 515, 951 votes which it contended were unlawfully added to the total votes cast during the March 9 poll.

The petitioners had called 135 witnesses out of the 685 they assembled to prove alleged massive rigging, ballot stuffing and other irregularities during the poll as contained in their petition.

The petitioners had accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of adding 391,741 votes to El-Rufai of APC and 124, 210 unlawful votes to the PDP, through wrong or double entry on the result sheets.

They also contended that declaring El-Rufai winner by INEC was illegal as he did not score majority of lawful votes.

The PDP through its legal team led by Mr. Emmanuel C. Ukala (SAN), said deducting 391,741 votes from 1,045,427 scored by El-Rufai and 124,210 from Ashiru’s 814, 168 votes will give victory to PDP and Ashiru, its candidate in the poll.

The counsel had argued that after the deduction of the alleged unlawful votes, Ashiru will be left with 689,958 lawful votes, while El-Rufai will have 653,686 votes.

Ukala argued that all parties to the petition are bound to argue their cases on the basis of whether or not the petitioners had assembled credible evidence to sustain their petition, as formulated by the Tribunal.

According to him, “only the 2nd respondent premised his argument on the issues formulated by this honorable tribunal.

“The 1st and 3rd respondents went on their own forays.

“It is, therefore, our submission that the argument of the 1st and 3rd respondents should go to ‘no issue’, having not addressed the issue which was binding to all parties, “ Ukala argued.

The petitioners counsel further said that based on the issues formulated by the tribunal, the issue has been narrowed down to the credibility of evidence.

“Based on this simplification of the issue, it is our humble submission that when the evidence led by both sides are placed on the imaginary scales of justice, what is obvious is that the weight of evidence of the petitioners will overwhelmingly weigh in favour of the petitioners as against the respondents, “ he said.

“First, the petitioners called 135 witnesses. All respondents put together, 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents, called a total of five witnesses.

“What is obvious is that there were so many areas covered by the petitioners that were not addressed by the respondents.”

Ukala further pointed out that the quality of the petitioners’ evidence was more qualitative than that of the respondents, with polling unit agents who actually saw what happened on the election day testifying.

However, in its final written address and reply to points raised by the petitioners, Counsel to APC, Ibrahim Bawa (SAN) said: “our final written address before the tribunal is that the petitioners have not been able to establish their claim before the court.

“There are certain allegations that were made which were criminal.

“The petitioners also complain that certain votes were illegally recorded for the 2nd and 3rd respondents, but unfortunately no evidences were made to prove those points.

“So, we urge the Tribunal to dismiss the petition as the petitioners have failed to live up to the standard expected of them in proving their petition.”

Similarly, Abdulhakeem Mustapha, counsel to El-Rufai, the 2nd respondent in the petition, asked the tribunal “to invoke its majestic powers to dismiss the petition as lacking in merit.

“And to confirm that the 2nd respondent, Malam Nasiru El Rufai as duly elected as governor of Kaduna State in the March 9 election. “

Mustapha further said: “we have been able to tell the court that all the witnesses called by the petitioners failed woefully to prove the ingredient of the fact relied upon in their petition.

“The onus is on the petitioners to come with credible evidence and all the testimonies of the witnesses produced by the petitioners were demolished under cross examination.

“There is nothing that the court will see to be persuaded to give judgment in their favor, we have been able to show with the witnesses we called that the election was conducted in conformity with the provision of the electoral Act.

“We are very satisfied with the proceedings and we are very sure that justice will be done and sure that Malam Nasiru El-Rufai was duly elected by the people of Kaduna State.

“On behalf of the 2nd respondent, the final written address which was dated 2nd August, was filed on 3rd August, 2019, while the 2nd respondent filed a reply on fact of law on August 16,” Mustapha said.

On his part, Counsel to INEC, Aliyu Umar (SAN), urged the tribunal to “dismiss the petition and confirm El Rufai as duly elected Governor of Kaduna State.“

Umar drew the attention of the tribunal to the fact that the petitioners had just served him with a list of additional authorities on the day of sitting.

“And their witnesses have all confirmed during cross examination that no INEC officials connived with any other person.

“The petitioners only called 135 of the 685 witnesses the petitioners said they would call, that is short of the number they were supposed to call to prove their case.

“They are to win their case by the evidence presented not by our witnesses,” Umar said.

The Tribunal is chaired by Justice Ibrahim Bako, with Khadi Adamu Usman and Justice Jude Obiora as members.F

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