The Supreme Court, on Wednesday, upheld the re-election of Governor Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa State.
The apex court, in a unanimous decision by a five-member panel, dismissed an appeal the All Progressives Congress, APC, and its candidate, Senator Aisha Dahiru, popularly known as Binani, filed to challenge the outcome of the governorship election that held in the state on March 18, 2023.It held that the appeal lacked both substance and merit.However, before the case was dismissed, the apex court berated the suspended .
Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, in Adamawa State, Hudu Yunusa-Ari, who had midway into the electoral process, declared Senator Dahiru as the winner of the contest.
In the lead judgement that was delivered by Justice Inyang Okoro, the Supreme Court held that the suspended Adamawa REC engaged in an act of “irresponsibility and criminality.”
The court added that the APC candidate wallowed in self deceit, when she clinged on the unlawful and unconstitutional act of the REC to claim that she won the governorship poll.
According to the Supreme Court, the Electoral Act, 2022, specified who should declare the result of an election, stressing that such power was exclusively donated to the Returning Officer by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
It held that the law made it clear that only a Returning Officer that was duly appointed by the INEC could exercise the authority to announce results of an election, so as to avert chaos and anarchy in the process.
Besides, the apex court wondered why the suspended REC vanished shortly after his action and also failed to appear before the tribunal to justify the declaration he made.
It held that neither Senator Dahiru nor the APC was able to establish through oral or documentary evidence, that they secured majority of lawful votes that were cast at the election, other than the unlawful declaration that was made in their favour by the suspended REC.
“From the evidence adduced before this court, the election of March 18, 2023, was inconclusive. A supplementary election was ordered and conducted. While the results of the supplementary election was being awaited, the REC did what he did.
“The questions are; why was the Resident Electoral Commissioner so hasty? What motivated him? Why did he take up the function of the Returning Officer?
“The REC ought to have been called as a vital witness by the Appellants, at least to make some clarifications. In his absence, there is nothing the court can do.
“It must however be clearly stated here that the REC acted ultra vires. He is not competent to announce election results.
“It is the express duty of INEC to give duty and responsibility and by evidence here, the duty was donated to the Returning Officer.
“By that singular act, it is the Returning Officer and no other person that can announce election results. It is exclusively for the Returning Officer.
“The announcement of the results by the Resident Electoral Commissioner in the instant case, is illegal, unlawful, null and void.
“He acted with unbridled effontry. It is an act of irresponsibility and criminality and should not be allowed.
“It is only the Returning Officer that is vested with power to make declaration of election results and this is to avoid chaos,” Justice Okoro added.
The Supreme Court warned that public officers should always act within the law in the discharge of their responsibilities and not get carried away by greed.
In his contribution, another member of the panel, Justice Ibrahim Saulawa, noted that Appellants only called three witnesses from 27 Local Government Areas in the state, to challenge the outcome of the gubernatorial poll.
Justice Saulawa held that it was wrong for the Appellants and their lawyers to rely on Section 137 of the Electoral Act, 2022 to “dump documents on the court,” without demonstrating them through relevant witnesses.
It will be recalled that the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja had earlier granted INEC the permission to prosecute its suspended REC in Adamawa State, Yunusa-Ari.
Yunusa-Ari is facing a six-count charge over alleged unlawful role he played in the Adamawa State governorship election.
INEC had initially declared that the gubernatorial election was inconclusive and ordered a supplementary poll.
However, midway into the collation of results of the supplementary poll that held on April 15, the suspended Adamawa REC, Yunusa-Ari, sidelined protocols and announced the APC candidate, Binani, as the winner.