An air of uneasiness has enveloped Kogi State as parties to the dispute over the last governorship election in the state anxiously await the verdict of the Supreme Court scheduled to be handed down in Abuja, today.
The nation’s apex court is expected to deliver two judgments on the two surviving appeals on the dispute over whether or not the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and incumbent Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, was lawfully returned by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the winner of the November 16, 2019 election.
The first appeal, marked: SC/CV/388/2020, was filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Engr Musa Wada, while the second one was filed by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and its candidate, Ms Natasha Akpoti.
The appellants are, among others, praying the court to reverse the judgments of the Court of Appeal, which upheld the decisions of the election tribunal, affirming Bello’s victory at the poll.
There was a third appeal filed by the Democratic People’s Party (DPP) and its candidate, Usman Mohammed, but it did not survive the court’s last proceedings on August 25, 2020.
The appellants’ lawyer, M. S. Ibrahim applied to withdraw it on realising that his clients’ case would not fly.
The appellants had challenged INEC’s disqualification of DPP’s candidate, who was said to be 31 years old as against the 35 years allowed by law.
Upon Ibrahim’s oral application for withdrawal, the court’s seven-man panel, led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, struck out the appeal, and awarded N200,000 cost against the appellants and in favour of the APC and Bello.
On the same day, the court entertained arguments from lawyers to parties in the appeals by the PDP and SDP and their candidates, following which it adjourned till August 31, 2020, for judgment in both appeals.
Lawyer to the PDP and Wada, Jibrin Okutepa (SAN), while adopting the appellants’ brief of argument, prayed the court to allow his client’s appeal, and grant the reliefs contained therein.
Okutepa contended, among others, that the five Justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law when they upheld the majority decision of the election tribunal, which validated Bello’s election.
On their part, lawyers to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Bello and APC – Alex Izinyon (SAN), Joseph Daudu (SAN) and Ahmed Raji (SAN) – urged the court to reject the appeal on the grounds that it lacked merit.
They prayed the court to retain the concurrent findings of the Court of Appeal and the majority decision of the tribunal, to the effect that Bello was validly returned as the winner of the election.
Similar arguments were made in relation to the appeal by the SDP and Akpoti
The PDP and Wada, in their appellants’ brief of argument, raised five issues for the court’s determination.
They are: “Whether the Court of Appeal acted without jurisdiction and in breach of the right to fair hearing of the appellants when it considered and determined the appeal before it on issues that did not arise from the majority judgment of the trial tribunal and or the notice and grounds of appeal filed before it.
“Whether the Court of Appeal was right in affirming the decision of the trial tribunal striking out several paragraphs of the appellants’ petition and deeming grounds ‘B’ and ‘C’ of the petition to have been abandoned.
“Whether the Court of Appeal was not in grave error in holding that the evidence of PWl9 (the forensic expert) and his report (exhibit P185A) have no evidential value.
“Considering the peculiar facts and circumstances of this case, whether the court below was right in holding that the failure by the appellants to call polling unit agents in the polling units complained of in the seven contested local government areas of Kogi State is fatal to the petition.
“The Court of Appeal rejected the reasons given by the trial tribunal for not according weight to the evidence of PW19 and exhibit P185A as can be seen on pages 5,175 to 5,176 of the record, volume 12 thereof. But, in breach of the right to fair hearing of the appellants, the court below suo motu (on its own volition) gave its own reasons and discountenanced the evidence of PW19 and exhibit P185A as can be seen on pages 5,175 to 5,176 of the record, volume 12 thereof”.
Izinyon raised two issues for the court’s determination in the first respondent’s brief of argument he filed for INEC.
They are: “Whether the court below was right in law in affirming some of the decisions of the trial tribunal granting the prayers in the various interlocutory applications of the respondents.
“Whether the lower court was right in dismissing the appellants’ appeal, having regard to the state of pleadings and the evidence led by the appellants at the trial tribunal.”
In his second respondent’s brief of argument, Bello raised three issues for the court’s determination.
They are: “Whether the court below considered in its judgment, issues raised suo motu that neither arose from the trial tribunal’s judgment nor raised by the second respondent.
“Whether the court below was right to have arrived at the conclusion that the appellants could not rely on facts and particulars pleaded specifically in support of the already abandoned grounds ‘B’ and ‘C’, relating to non-compliance and corrupt practices, to establish their principal and only surviving ground of complaint to wit: that the second respondent did not score majority of lawful votes in the said election.
“Whether, having regard to the ground of majority of lawful votes relied upon by the appellants, the court below was correct when it affirmed the conclusion of the trial tribunal that the appellants failed to prove that the second respondent was not elected by majority of lawful votes”.
The PDP and Wada had, shortly after INEC announced the result of the election, filed a petition on December 7, 2019, before the Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, which sat in Abuja.
On May 23, 2020, the tribunal, in a split decision of two-to-one, dismissed the petition and upheld INEC’s return of Bello as the winner of the election.
The tribunal’s Chairman, Justice Kashim Kaigama, and a member, Justice Baraka Wali, gave the majority decision, while another member, Justice Ohimai Ovbiagele, gave the minority dissenting judgment, upholding the petition and voiding Bello’s election.
The PDP and Wada appealed the majority decision of the tribunal at the Court of Appeal in Abuja.
But in a judgment on July 4, 2020, the appellate court’s five-man panel was unanimous in dismissing the appeal, and proceeded to uphold the majority decision of the tribunal.
On the Court of Appeal’s panel were Justices Adamu Jauro, Haruna Simon Tsammani, Onyekachi Aja Otisi, Elfreda O. Williams-Daudu and Mohammed Lawal Shuaibu.
The PDP and Wada again appealed to the Supreme Court, which heard the case on August 25 and scheduled the judgment for August 31, 2020.
The case by SDP and Akpoti has a similar history but for the fact that there was no split in the tribunal’s decision given on May 18, 2020.
The tribunal was unanimous in dismissing their petition.
On appeal to the Court of Appeal, a five-man panel of the court, in a judgment on July 4, 2020, dismissed the appeal for lacking in merit; a decision the SDP and Akpoti further appealed to the Supreme Court.
The judgment on the same case at the apex court is also slated for today.
Ogoni Youths Give FG 14 Days To Fix East-West Road
No fewer than 400 youths under the aegis of Ogoni Youth Federation (OYF), yesterday, staged a peaceful protest at the Eleme axis of the East-West Road, giving the Federal Government 14 days ultimatum to mobilize to site and fix the road or have economic activities in the area grounded.
The protesters, who carried various placards with inscriptions to press home their demands, trekked from Akpajo Junction to Refinery Junction in Eleme LGA, chanting solidarity songs to register their discontent over the neglect of the road.
Addressing newsmen during the protest, President General of the Ogoni Youth Federation, Comrade Legborsi Yaamabana, said it was regrettable that the road, which was a major route to the economic hub of the nation, has remained in a deplorable state, only becoming a death trap that has terminated the lives of innocent Ogonis.
Yaamabana, who described the mass action of the youths as a ‘warning protest’, said if the contractors handling the road were not immediately mobilized to site, then, the youths will have no option than to shut down all economic activities in the area.
He said, “we cannot continue to watch our people being killed on daily basis by tankers because of the poor state of Eleme axis of the east west road, we are calling on the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency fix the road and save our people from untimely deaths as a result of the sorry state of the road, the only bridge on the road at Aleto has collapse but nothing is being done to avert the disasters faced by our people daily”.
Yaamabana also called on the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio to constitute a substantive board for the Niger Delta Development Commission to address the development needs of the Niger Delta region, noting that the use of interim management for NDDC was “diversionary, self serving and not in the interest of the development of the Niger Delta region”.
The OYF president general also called on the Federal Government to exonerate Ken Saro-Wiwa and his compatriots who were extra-judicially murdered by the late Gen Sani Abacha military junta, and given post-humours honour as martyrs of democracy in Nigeria, while the ideals of justice they stood for should be upheld.
Also speaking, the immediate past secretary of the Ijaw Youth Council, Eastern Zone, Comrade James Tobin, who joined the protest in solidarity, decried the neglect of the East—West Road by the Federal Government, and called the immediate fixing of the road to save the teeming road users from untold pains and death.
By: Taneh Beemene
Rising Prices Push 7m Nigerians Below Poverty Line -World Bank
The World Bank has said that rising prices pushed about seven million Nigerians below the poverty line in 2020.
This was contained in a press statement titled, ‘Critical reforms needed to reduce inflation and accelerate the recovery, says new World Bank report,’ released by the World Bank’s Senior External Affairs Officer of Nigeria, Mansir Nasir.
The press statement was released, yesterday, in line with the latest World Bank Nigeria Development Update.
It was acknowledged that the Federal Government “took measures to protect the economy against a much deeper recession” but it was recommended that certain policies should be set for a strong recovery.”
The statement read, “The NDU, titled ‘Resilience through Reforms,’ notes that in 2020, the Nigerian economy experienced a shallower contraction of -1.8 per cent than had been projected at the beginning of the pandemic (-3.2 per cent). Although the economy started to grow again, prices are increasing rapidly, severely impacting Nigerian households.
“As of April, 2021, the inflation rate was the highest in four years. Food prices accounted for over 60% of the total increase in inflation. Rising prices have pushed an estimated seven million Nigerians below the poverty line in 2020 alone.”
Quoted in the statement, the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri, identified some of the challenges faced by the country and recommended a way forward.
“Nigeria faces interlinked challenges in relation to inflation, limited job opportunities, and insecurity.
“While the government has made efforts to reduce the effect of these by advancing long-delayed policy reforms, it is clear that these reforms will have to be sustained and deepened for Nigeria to realise its development potential,” Chaudhuri said.
Also quoted is the World Bank Lead Economist for Nigeria and co-author of the NDU, Marco Hernandez, who also gave a recommendation.
“Given the urgency to reduce inflation amidst the pandemic, a policy consensus and expedite reform implementation on exchange-rate management, monetary policy, trade policy, fiscal policy, and social protection would help save lives, protect livelihoods, and ensure a faster and sustained recovery,” Hernandez said.
Inflation Dips To 17.93% In May, NBS Confirms
Nigeria’s inflation rate dropped to 17.93 per cent in May, 2021, from 18.12 per cent recorded in April, 2021.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed this in its monthly Consumer Price Index report released, yesterday.
The drop in the headline inflation in May was the second consecutive month this year.
The report indicates that the consumer price index (CPI), which measures the inflation rate increased by 17.93 per cent (year-on-year) in May, 2021, which is 0.19 per cent points lower than the rate recorded in the preceding month.
According to NBS, food inflation dropped in the same month from 22.78 per cent recorded in April, 2021 to 22.28 per cent in May, 2021.
The report reads, ‘‘All items less farm produce which excludes the prices of volatile agricultural produce stood at 13.15 per cent in May, 2021, up by 0.41 per cent when compared with 12.74 per cent recorded in April, 2021.
‘‘The highest increases were recorded in prices of pharmaceutical products, garments, shoes and other footwear, hairdressing salons and personal grooming establishments, furniture and furnishing, carpet and other floor covering.
‘‘Others include, motor cars, Hospital services, fuels and lubricants for personal transport equipment, cleaning, repair and hire of clothing.
“Other services include personal transport equipment, gas, household textile, and non-durable household goods,” the NBS added.
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