By Aliyu Dangida
The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja, on Monday, affirmed the election of Governor Ahmad Aliyu of Sokoto State.
The appellate court dismissed a petition that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its candidate, Saidu Umar, filed to challenge the declaration of Aliyu of the All Progressives Congress, APC, as the bonafide winner of the governorship election that held in the state on March 18.
In a unanimous decision, a three-member panel of Justices of the court said it found no reason to disturb the verdict of the Sokoto State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, which had earlier validated Governor Aliyu’s election victory.
Umar and the PDP had approached the tribunal, alleging that Aliyu and his deputy, Idris Gobir, were not eligible to contest the gubernatorial poll.
The petitioners contended that Governor Idris and his deputy did not secure majority of valid votes that were cast at the election to be declared winners by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
They alleged that the election was not only marred by irregularities but was also not conducted in substantial compliance with provisions of the Electoral Act 2022.
Aside from alleging that the governor and his deputy submitted forged certificates, with variations of names, to INEC in aid of their qualification to contest the election, the petitioners, added that electoral fraud occurred in 138 polling units in the state.
However, the three-man panel tribunal, in a judgement it delivered on September 30, dismissed the petition as lacking in merit.
The Justice Haruna Mshelia-led tribunal held that the petitioners were unable to prove any of the allegations they raised in the petition.
It held that evidence of most of the witnesses who testified for the PDP and its candidate were incompetent as their statements on oath were not front-loaded alongside the petition as required by law.
The tribunal held that the allegation of forgery, being criminal in nature, ought to have been proved beyond reasonable doubt, a burden it said the petitioners failed to discharge.
More so, the tribunal noted that 70 percent of exhibits the petitioners adduced before it, were out of context as they relate to the State House of Assembly elections that were conducted on the same date the governorship poll held.
Consequently, it dismissed the petition and affirmed the outcome of the election.
While upholding the decision of the tribunal on Monday, the appellate court, held that most of the evidence that the petitioners produced in support of their case, were legally inadmissible.
It held that the tribunal was right when it expunged the incompetent exhibits that were either not pleaded or irrelevant to the case that was brought before it.