Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Femi Falana has expressed deep reservations regarding the recent judicial decisions made by the appellate court that annulled the victories of Governors Abba Yusuf of Kano State and Caleb Mutfwang of Plateau State.
During an appearance on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics programme, Falana raised critical concerns about the conduct of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) during the electoral processes in the country.
He strongly criticised INEC, highlighting various shortcomings in their responsibilities, especially their alleged failure to conduct proper elections.
Falana pointed out specific irregularities, such as the clearance of candidates without adequate primaries conducted by their respective parties and the issue of unstamped ballot sheets, which led to the nullification of thousands of votes by the court.
In Falana’s perspective, the courts should not invalidate the votes cast by citizens due to the supposed negligence of the electoral umpire.
He emphasised the need for elections to be concluded and resolved before the commencement of any incoming administrations.
The senior lawyer also addressed recent legal decisions by the appellate court that affected governors from opposition parties. For instance, the court nullified the victory of Abba Yusuf from the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP), replacing him with Nasir Gawuna of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Similarly, in Zamfara State, the court declared Governor Dauda Lawal’s victory over the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) inconclusive after nearly eight months, ordering a fresh election in three local government areas. The major contenders in this race are Lawal and Bello Matawalle of the APC.
Regarding Plateau State, the court ousted PDP’s Caleb Mutfwang, instructing INEC to issue a Certificate of Return to APC’s Nentawe Goshwe. This ruling was due to the PDP’s violation of a court order mandating a valid congress in all 17 local government areas of the state.
However, the appellate court upheld the election victory of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of the APC in Lagos State.
Falana reiterated his concerns about INEC’s failure to carry out due diligence both before and during the elections, prompting these contentious legal outcomes.
He encouraged parties discontented with the appellate court’s decisions to seek redress at the Supreme Court, underscoring the importance of rectifying these alleged electoral irregularities.
“If you look at what happened in Lagos, it is different from what happened in Plateau. You are being told in Plateau that there was a judgement of the high court to the effect that primaries have to be conducted. The judgement, as usual, was dishonoured and disobeyed, and the election went on,” the senior lawyer said.
He stressed the necessity for the political class to adhere to the court’s rulings.
“It is different from Kano, where you are being told that voters can be punished. It is a very dangerous judicial policy to sanction voters for the mistakes of electoral officers.
“We are being told that 165,000 votes are wasted; they are invalid because some electoral officers committed an error by not stamping them. How does that affect the validity of the election?
“I do hope that this time around, the Supreme Court will resolve these needless controversies surrounding the non-stamping of ballot papers by INEC officials who have not been recommended for any sanction.
“This is why these judgements will have to be reviewed.”
CREDIT: BUSINESS DAY