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APC loses as Supreme Court declares Dauda Lawal duly elected governor of Zamfara

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The Supreme Court, on Friday, upheld the election of Governor Dauda Lawal of Zamfara State.


The apex court vacated the November 16, 2023 judgement of the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, which declared the governorship election that held in the state on March 18, as inconclusive.

It held that Lawal, who was the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, secured the majority of lawful votes and was rightly declared the winner of the gubernatorial contest by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

In the lead judgement that was delivered by Justice Emmanuel Agim, the apex court, described the verdict of the appellate court as “perverse”.

It restored the earlier decision of the Zamfara State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, which affirmed Lawal’s election victory.

It will be recalled that INEC had declared that Governor Lawal of the PDP polled a total of 377,726 votes to defeat the immediate past governor of the state and current Minister of State for Defence, Bello Matawalle, who scored 311,976 votes.

The declaration by INEC was on September 18, 2023, affirmed by the tribunal which held that Matawalle, who was the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, failed to establish his allegation that some polling unit results were excluded by the electoral body.

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The tribunal further held that Matawalle and his party failed to prove their claim that INEC did not comply with electoral rules while conducting the election, even as it awarded a cost of N500,000 against the Appellants.

However, the appellate court voided the judgement of the tribunal and declared the Zamfara state governorship election as inconclusive.

The appellate court nullified the return of Governor Dauda as the winner of the gubernatorial contest.

It ordered INEC to conduct a fresh election in three Local Government Areas, LGAs, of the state where election results were either not counted or unlawfully cancelled.

Specifically, while the appellate court ordered a fresh poll in the entire Maradun LGA of the state, it directed INEC to hold elections in some polling units in Birnin-Magaji and Bukyum LGAs.

The appellate court held that the tribunal wrongly evaluated the evidence that was presented before it by the parties.

It 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.

According to the court, the IReV was only meant for the benefit of the public and not to serve as an election result collation platform.

Besides, the appellate court stressed that going by the margin of lead principle, INEC, ought not have made a return in the election, considering the existence of over 98, 904 votes in the three affected LGAs.

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It held that the Appellant, Matawalle, successfully discharged the burden of proof that was placed on him by the law to warrant the invalidation of the declaration of Governor Lawal as the bonafide 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.

However, in its judgement on Friday, the Supreme Court vacated the Court of Appeal decision for being perverse and against the weight of evidence.

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