The Kaduna State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal has begun hearing the case that challenges the announcement of Uba Sani, the candidate of the All Progressives Party, as the winner of the state’s governorship elections on March 18, 2023.
Justice Victor Oviawie presided over a three-person panel that also included Justices K. Damlat and N. Nonye.
At the State High Court, NDA, Kaduna, the Tribunal’s first meeting was attended by attorneys for both the petitioners and the respondents.
The legal team representing Governor Sani and the APC was led by Chief Bayo Ojo, SAN, a former Attorney General and Minister, while the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its gubernatorial candidate, Mohammed Ashiru, were represented by Senior Advocate of Nigeria Samuel Atung.
However, Atung was represented at the tribunal by Prof. Francis Kwede, who’s the Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Jos.
In his inaugural speech, the Chairman of the panel, Justice Victor Oviawe, sought the corporation of the Nigerian Bar Association, both counsels for speedy dispensation of justice in line with the provision of the electoral act.
He also said “the tribunal would be just, fair and do the right thing in the interest of the public while adding that five petitions were before the court.”
Counsel to Governor Sani, Bayo Ojo while speaking to newsmen shortly after the inaugural sitting, said, “We are here for the inaugural sitting of the tribunal as you heard the chairman say and my response to that.
“We have pledged our cooperation to ensure that, the sittings go very well, while we are going to defend our client to the best of our ability.”
On his part, counsel to the PDP and its candidate, Prof. Kwede, said with the mood of the inaugural sitting, he was sure that the tribunal would ensure justice is served.
He said; “From what transpired it is an inaugural sitting of the tribunal, I assure you that there will be justice. As members of the bar, we want to assure the tribunal that justice will be served in this matter.
“In this matter, I have confidence that at the end, members of the public will see that justice has been done, at the end of the day justice will be done.”
The PDP had challenged the victory of Sani of the APC, claiming that the last governorship election was manipulated in favour of the incumbent governor.
However, the ruling APC had discarded the claims, saying “the election that ushered in Senator Uba Sani was free, fair and credible.”
Meanwhile, in a petition submitted before the tribunal, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had invited the Kaduna State Governorship Election Tribunal to note a major constitutional error in the petition brought by the Peoples Democratic Party, challenging the outcome of the 18 March 2023 governorship poll.
It also insisted in its reply to the petition marked KPT/KD/GOV/4/2023 and filed on May 6, 2023, that the incumbent governor and candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Uba Sani, won the election fair and square and lawfully returned as the victor.
The reply of the commission contained both its preliminary objection to the petition brought by PDP and its candidate, Mohammed Ashiru, and a point-by-point response to all the allegations raised by the petitioners, against the conduct of the poll and its outcome.
“Results of polling units being disputed by the petitioners were also analysed in the reply of the electoral body, which also indicated that it would be calling witnesses from its Election Operations and ICT Departments, to prove the integrity of the poll and the votes scored by each of the participating candidates,” INEC had said.