The Independent National Electoral Commission, amid a flurry of controversial events declared incumbent, PDP’s Fintiri winner with 430861 votes ahead of main challenger, Aishatu Ahmed Dahiru (APC) who scored 398788 votes.
Dismayed by the turn of events, Binani as she is fondly called, and the APC approached the tribunal in Suit No: EPT/AD/GOV/01/2023, questioning amongst others, the decision of the 1st defendant (INEC), to reject her declaration as winner of the April 15 Governorship rerun in the state. Fintiri and PDP were listed as 2nd & 3rd defendants respectively.
The Petitioners also averred that the election was characterised by vote buying, corrupt practices, BVAS snatching and intimidation/harassment of officials.
It can be recalled that a now suspended State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of INEC, Hudu Ari-Yunusa, had on April 16, declared Binani the winner of the election conducted the day before. Hudu had announced Binani winner of the election when results for collation were still being awaited from 10 LGAs.
In reaction to the premature declaration, INEC immediately nullified the declaration and suspended Hudu, and then went ahead to conclude the collation and announce incumbent Fintiri of the PDP as the winner of the election.
The tribunal in her judgement held that the premature declaration of Binani was unconstitutional and illegal. The panel held that the State REC’s responsibility was supervision and administration, not to usurp the responsibilities of the Returning Officer who is empowered by law to collate and announce the results accordingly.
On the issue of vote buying, the tribunal held that the allegations were not proven beyond reasonable doubts. To prove over-voting , the BVAS machine must be tendered, the failure of the petitioners to produce same does not substantially prove their case.
The 3-man panel further struck out all paragraphs involving criminal allegations/electoral manipulations against the defendants having not been supported by any ground in the petition.
The tribunal held that the Court is an adjudicator not an investigator as the star witness of the petitioners neither demonstrated nor linked material allegations to the petition.
“The Petitioners simply dumped document on the Court and produced witnesses whose statements were documentary hearsay”, the tribunal held.
In reading the 176-page document, the tribunal held that the Petitioners applied for issuance of pre-hearing notice prematurely and not in accordance with the provisions of Section 18 of the 1st Schedule of the Electoral Act 2022. The petition is here by struck out having been abandoned by the Petitioners.
The tribunal further dismissed the petition for lacking in merit and affirmed the 2nd Respondent as duly elected and returned as Governor.