ABUJA, (iexclusivenews) – Governor Dauda Lawal of Zamfara State has emerged victorious in the legal battle over his election, as the Supreme Court has upheld his mandate and quashed the appeal that sought to nullify his victory.
The Background of the Case
Governor Lawal, who ran on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was declared the winner of the governorship election that took place in Zamfara State on March 18, 2023, by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
According to INEC, Governor Lawal garnered a total of 377,726 votes, while his closest rival, Bello Matawalle, the former governor of the state and the current Minister of State for Defence, who contested under the All Progressives Congress, APC, got 311,976 votes.
However, Matawalle and his party challenged the outcome of the election, alleging that INEC excluded some polling unit results and violated some electoral rules in the conduct of the election.
The Zamfara State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal dismissed their petition and upheld the declaration of Governor Lawal as the winner of the election. The tribunal also awarded a cost of N500,000 against Matawalle and his party.
The Appeal Court’s Ruling
Dissatisfied with the tribunal’s verdict, Matawalle and his party appealed to the Court of Appeal in Abuja, which reversed the tribunal’s decision and declared the Zamfara state governorship election as inconclusive.
The appellate court annulled the return of Governor Lawal as the duly elected governor of the state and ordered INEC to conduct a fresh election in three Local Government Areas, LGAs, of the state where it found that election results were either not counted or unlawfully cancelled.
The affected LGAs were Maradun, Birnin-Magaji and Bukyum. The appellate court noted that there were over 98, 904 votes in these LGAs, which could affect the margin of lead between the candidates.
The appellate court faulted the tribunal for wrongly evaluating the evidence that was presented before it by the parties and held that INEC acted wrongly when it relied on information it obtained from its IReV portal to collate the final result of the governorship election.
The court said that the IReV was only meant for the benefit of the public and not to serve as an election result collation platform.
The court also held that Matawalle and his party successfully discharged the burden of proof that was placed on them by the law to warrant the invalidation of the declaration of Governor Lawal as the rightful winner of the gubernatorial election.
“The 1st Respondent was not duly elected by a majority of lawful votes. His return was not in compliance with provisions of the Electoral Act,” the appellate court held.
The Supreme Court’s Judgement
However, in a unanimous judgement on Friday, the Supreme Court set aside the judgement of the appellate court and affirmed the election of Governor Lawal.
The apex court, in the lead judgement that was delivered by Justice Emmanuel Agim, described the verdict of the appellate court as “perverse” and said it was against the weight of evidence.
The court restored the earlier decision of the Zamfara State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, which affirmed Lawal’s election victory.
The court held that Lawal, who was the candidate of the PDP, secured the majority of lawful votes and was rightly declared the winner of the gubernatorial contest by INEC.
The Supreme Court’s judgement has put an end to the legal tussle over the Zamfara state governorship election and confirmed Governor Lawal’s mandate.