Executive director, Patriots for the Advancement of Peace and Social Development, Dr Sani Shinkafi has faulted the judgement of the Zamfara State Election Petition Tribunal that upheld the victory of Governor Dauda Lawal of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) against Dr. Bello Matawalle of the All Progressives Congress (APC) saying it’s a travesty of justice, reckless assault on the rule of law and extremely partisan.
In a statement he issued in Abuja, yesterday, he said the judgement is a step backward on sustainable democracy in Nigeria. Shinkafi wondered how the panel ignored gross violation of the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, the INEC regulations, guidelines and manual for the 2023 general election, particularly the disenfranchisement of over 100,000 voters at Birnin Magaji and Maradun local government areas despite overwhelming oral witnesses and documentary evidences exhibited at the tribunal, adding that this is a calculated effort to undermine the nation’s democracy.
He claimed that it is on record that election was not held in four registration areas of Birnin Magaji local government with 80 polling units and a total of 46,000 registered voters. “Also election was cancelled in several polling units with over 85,062 registered voters. The purported margin of lead declared by the Returning Officer, Prof Kasimu Shehu was 65,750 far below the number of voters in the areas where polls did not hold or were cancelled,” he added.
He said the collation of results in Maradun local government area was successfully conducted and the result of the election effectively collated by the Registration Area Collation Officers and that the collated results in Form EC8B were taken to the Local Government Collation Centre and dully collated by the Local Government Collation Officer, adding that the result in Form EC8C by the Local Government Collation Officer was taken to the State Returning Officer. “Curiously he refused to accept same in flagrant violation of the electoral guidelines. As if carrying out a hatchet job, the State Returning Officer purported to undertake fresh collation claiming he would only rely on the results on the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV). The votes scored by political parties in Maradun Local Government as collated by the Local Government Collation Officers were APC 95,506 votes; PDP 618 votes,” he alleged.
He also alleged that “In electoral abracadabra, the Returning Officer substituted the said result and declared PDP winner.” He said if result as collated by the Maradum Local Government Collation Officer in Form EC8C was included in the final computation, APC would have won the election.
“The final result was 377,726 in favour of PDP and 311,976 for APC. The purported margin of lead 65,750 of PDP could not stand in view of the 95,506 votes unlawfully rejected by the State Returning Officer in collaboration with the Zamfara State Resident Electoral Commissioner. Maradun Local Government Area is an APC stronghold. To rig out APC in its stronghold is justice juxtaposed. It will not stand unbiased judicial adjudication,” he said.
“The tribunal’s decision of 18th September, 2023, was a gross miscarriage of justice. With overwhelming evidence before it, the appeal court will set it aside in the interest of justice and sustainable democracy in Nigeria.
The ballot is sacrosanct. Periodic election that ought to be the beauty of democracy should not be sacrificed for a mere pot of porridge nor at the altar of electoral impunity, judicial rascality and influence peddling by political buccaneers masquerading as democrats to capture power for their personal aggrandizement,” he said.
He said that the Supreme Court, Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, Court of Appeal and High Court judgments are eloquent testimonies of the rule of law, due process, electoral integrity, sanctity of the ballot box in the conduct of elections and adjudication of election disputes in Nigeria.
“In its judgment in the petition filed by Atiku Abubakar, Peter Obi, Allied People’s Movement (APM) against Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and INEC, the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal held that ‘nothing in the Electoral Act 2022 specifically states that BVAS should be used to transmit election result’. While it noted that sections 14 & 18 of the Electoral Act provide for the use of the Bimodal Verification Accreditation System (BVAS) for the purpose of accreditation of voters, the lead Judge, Justice Tsammani, stated that the ‘IRev is not a collation system’. The panel said INEC opted to transmit results manually from the polling units to the ward collation centre then from ward to local government, from local government to state and finally to the federal. The court equally held that the petitioners failed to prove that the system was deliberately programmed by the INEC to manipulate or rig election,” he said.
He said that it is curious that the Zamfara State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal “deliberately ignored or neglected these landmark judicial pronouncements that would have further deepened the nation’s electoral process and stabilise the polity.”