The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja, on Friday, nullified the election of Governor Abba Yusuf of Kano State.
The appellate court, in a unanimous decision by a three-member panel of justices, held that governor Yusuf was not a valid candidate in the gubernatorial election that held in the state on March 18.
It maintained that a proof of evidence that was adduced before it, established that the governor was not a member of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, as at the time the election held. According to the court, Yusuf, under section 177(c) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, was not qualified to contest the governorship election since he was not validly sponsored by the NNPP.
“A person must be a member of a political party before he can be sponsored for an election.
“Sponsorship without membership is like putting something on nothing,” the court held in its lead judgement that was delivered by Justice M. U. Adumeh.
It held that the Constitution stipulated that a person shall be qualified for the office of a governor of a state, if he is a member of a political party.
“Membership of a political party is a sine qua non for eligibility to contest a governorship election,” the court held, adding that governor Yusuf’s name was not found in a three volumes of membership registers that the NNPP tendered in evidence.
Besides, the court wondered why governor Yusuf, who was the Appellant, relied on an affidavit that was deposed to by another person, to prove that he was a bonafide member of the political party.
It held that though the issue of membership is a domestic affair of a political party which no court has the jurisdiction to meddle in, “it should be noted that a court will not allow a political party to act arbitrarily. A political party must obey the Constitution,” the court added.
The appellate court further held that since section 134 (1) (a) of the Constitution, permitted a petitioner to contend that a candidate was not qualified to contest an election, “it is clear that a door or window of jurisdiction is opened to a court or tribunal to determine an assertion that a person whose election is being challenged, was not qualified to contest the election.
“A political party cannot be permitted to circumvent or breach mandatory provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
It held that section 77 (2) and (3) of the Electoral Act made it mandatory for political parties to maintain a register of its members, which it must make available to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
It added that the tribunal was wrong not to have disqualified the Appellant after his name was not found in NNPP’s membership register.
It held that the party’s decision to sponsor a candidate that was not its member in the governorship contest, was fatal to its interest.
The court held that governor Yusuf’s participation in the election without valid sponsorship by a political party, was “nothing but a mere nullity, irrespective of whether the person performed excellently well in the election.”
Consequently, the appellate court upheld the earlier judgement of the Kano state Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, which nullified governor Yusuf’s election, even as it awarded N1million cost against him.
It will be recalled that the tribunal had in a virtual judgement it delivered on September 20, sacked governor Yusuf from office and declared Nasiru Gawuna of the All Progressive Congress, APC, as the valid winner of the governorship poll.
The three-member panel tribunal, led by Justice Oluyemi Akintan-Osadebay, held that some ballot papers that were relied upon to declare Yusuf as winner of the gubernatorial contest, were neither signed nor stamped by the INEC.
It proceeded to declare 165,663 of the votes that were credited to the NNPP candidate as invalid.
Following the deduction of the said invalid votes, Yusuf, who was initially declared winner of the governorship poll with a total of 1,019,602 votes, had his tally reduced to 853, 939 votes.
With the development, his closest rival and candidate of the APC, Ganuwa, emerged the winner of the election with 890,705 votes.
Dissatisfied with the judgement, governor Yusuf approached the appellate court to set it aside, a prayer the court refused on Friday.