There was confusion on Saturday as the national headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) disowned its Kano Zonal Office on the withdrawal of the commission’s appeal against the judgment of the Kano State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal.
The Head of the Legal Department of INEC in Kano State, Suleiman Alkali, had in a letter dated October 6, 2023, stated that the electoral umpire had withdrawn its appeal against the judgment of the tribunal.
But in a swift reaction, INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman of the Information and Voter Education Committee, Sam Olumekun, in a statement issued Saturday night in Abuja, said the letter written by the commission’s Legal Officer of Kano State Office was not authorised.
This is as the state governor, Abba Kabir Yusuf, has hired a renowned legal luminary, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) to prosecute ‘the redemption of his mandate at the Court of Appeal’.
During the sitting of the election tribunal in the state, just like in other petitions across the country, the commission had defended and justified the electoral victory of Governor Abba Yusuf of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPC).
But in the letter dated October 6, Alkali stated that INEC had withdrawn the appeal because it had no reason to appeal the judgment.
“I have been instructed by the commission headquarters that INEC as an umpire has no reason to appeal any judgment.
“Consequently, the National Commission in charge of Legal Services and National Commissioner in charge of Kano zone directed that the appeal be withdrawn and all processes for all appeals should be forwarded to the Kano Office,” the letter addressed to the secretary of the Kano Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, read.
On September 20, a three-man panel sacked Governor Abba Yusuf and declared the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Nasiru Gawuna, winner of the March 18 governorship poll.
However, Yusuf filed a 42-ground of appeal before the appellate court asking the court to set aside the judgment of the tribunal.
Before the controversial announcement of its sudden withdrawal, the electoral commission had earlier filed a 33-ground appeal against the judgment, saying the trial tribunal erred in law by declaring the candidate of the petitioner, who is not a party to the case, as the winner of the election.
It also said the tribunal “erred in law and fell into grave error when it failed or neglected to properly evaluate the evidence before it especially evidence elicited during cross-examination by the Appellant which had a far-reaching consequence on the resolution of the issues in the petition thereby occasioning a miscarriage of justice to the appellant.”
Reacting to the decision of its Kano office to withdraw the appeal against the decision of the tribunal, INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman of the Information and Voter Education Committee, Olumekun, said the letter written by the Legal Officer of the Kano State office was not authorised.
He said: “The attention of the commission has been drawn to media reports based on a letter written by the Legal Officer of our Kano State office indicating that the commission had withdrawn from the appeal process in the ongoing Kano governorship election petition case.
“We wish to state categorically that the letter was not authorised. It has since been withdrawn and the officer reprimanded.
“The public is therefore advised to discountenance the insinuation that the commission has withdrawn from the case or even worse abandoned the appeal.
“We wish to state categorically that where litigants join INEC in a case, the commission is under obligation to respond accordingly. We have therefore instructed our lawyers to proceed in line with the extant policy of the commission. The policy has not changed,” Olumekun explained.
Meanwhile, Governor Kabir Yusuf has hired renowned legal luminary, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) to prosecute ‘the redemption of his mandate at the Court of Appeal’.
According to a copy of the notice of appeal made available to journalists on Friday, Olanipekun, who led the legal team of President Bola Tinubu at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT), is now the counsel for Governor Yusuf.
Other members of the legal team of the governor are Bode Olanipekun (SAN), Ibrahim G. Waru, and Akintola Makinde, with Wole Olanipekun & Co as the legal firm handling the appeal.
Meanwhile, Chief EOB Offiong (APC) remains the counsel for the APC.
Chuks Okocha in Abuja