The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja has sacked the governor of Zamfara State, Lawal Dauda of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), following an appeal entered by former governor Bello Matawalle.
Recall that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had after the March 18 governorship poll, declared Dauda Lawal as the governor-elect, saying he garnered 377,726 votes.
The incumbent governor at the time, Bello Matawalle of the All Progressives Congress (APC), was said to have gotten 311,976 votes.
Bello approached the Zamfara State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Sokoto, with a petition against Dauda’s election.
Matawalle’s legal team led by Akinlola Kehinde SAN, had alleged there was wrongful collation of election results, including those of Maradun LGA.
He also argued that elections were not held in several wards in the state without any reason given by INEC.
But the Tribunal affirmed the election of Lawal, while dismissing Matawalle’s appeal for lacking in merit.
After losing his second term bid, Matawalle was appointed as Minister Of State, Defense, by President Bola Tinubu.
But he went on to appeal the verdict of the Tribunal, arguing that Dauda did not score the majority of lawful votes cast during the governorship poll and that the election was inconclusive.
He contended that the Tribunal erroneously struck out evidence tendered by his witnesses including several paragraphs in his petition.
But the PDP countered Matawalle, contending that he failed to prove his petition against Dauda’s election victory
On Thursday, a three-man panel of the Appeal court led by Justice Oyebisi Folayemi, declared: “It is our view that the order of the Trial tribunal striking out several paragraphs of the appellants petition was erroneous.”
On the tribunal striking out the evidence (PW1 and PW17) tendered by Matawalle as hearsay, the appellate court held that it was evidently seen from the polling units results used by INEC that the result sheets were not signed by party agents of the appellants.
More so, the appeal court held that the evidence of Matawalle’s two witnesses (LG collation agents), contrary to the Tribunal’s position, are linked to the specific aspects of the appellants case.
The appeal court maintained that in line with the Electoral Act, it shall not be necessary for a party who alleges non compliance with relevant laws, to call oral evidence if their exhibits show the same allegations.
The appeal court observed that the documents INEC relied on to declare results in Maradun LGA of Zamfara state were mutilated, and as such, the same exhibits tendered by Matawalle before the Tribunal were not hearsay evidence.
“This court resolves this issue in favour of the appellants.,” the court held.
The appeal court further held that the tribunal failed to properly evaluate the evidence brought before it and that the appellants placed credible evidence before the tribunal.
The appeal court subsequently held that the appellants successfully proved that Dauda was not duly elected, and that the INEC Results Viewing Portal cannot be used in collating results as done by the Tribunal.
“This appeal is hereby allowed.
“The March 2023 Governorship election held in Zamfara state is inconclusive and the return of Dauda is set aside.
“INEC is hereby directed to hold fresh elections in Birnin Magaji and Bukun Yum LGA,” the court held.
This judgment was adopted by Justices Cordelia Ifeoma Jombo-Ofo and Sybil Nwaka Gbagi.
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