By Milcah Tanimu
In a recent judicial decision led by Justice Elphreda Williams-Dawodu, the Court of Appeal has directed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw the Certificate of Return granted to Governor Caleb Mutfwang of Plateau State. The court declared Nentawe Goshwe of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the rightful winner of the March 18 governorship election and instructed INEC to issue a new Certificate of Return to him.
This marks the latest development in a series of legal challenges to governorship elections, resulting in the removal of at least three governors within nine months of the elections. Here is a breakdown of the sacked state governors and the grounds provided by the court:
1. **Abba Kabir Yusuf (NNPP):**
– The NNPP candidate won the election with 1,019,602 votes, defeating the APC candidate Nasir Gawuna, who received 890,705 votes.
– The Election Petitions Tribunal, led by Justice Oluyemi Osadebay, invalidated Governor Yusuf’s election, declaring 165,663 votes invalid due to unsigned or unstamped ballot papers.
– The court ordered the revocation of Yusuf’s Certificate of Return and the issuance of a new one to Gawuna. The Court of Appeal in Abuja upheld this decision, emphasizing Yusuf’s absence from his party’s membership list.
2. **Abdullahi Sule (APC):**
– The Nasarawa State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal sacked Governor Abdullahi Sule and ordered INEC to revoke his Certificate of Return, awarding it to David Ombugadu of the PDP.
– The tribunal found discrepancies in the votes, with incorrect votes added to Sule and deducted from Ombugadu. The Court of Appeal in Abuja is yet to deliver its judgment on the appeal.
3. **Dauda Lawal (PDP):**
– INEC declared Dauda Lawal of the PDP as the winner of the Zamfara State governorship election, defeating incumbent governor Bello Matawalle of the APC.
– The Court of Appeal declared the election inconclusive, ordering new elections in two local governments. Matawalle successfully argued that Lawal’s election was invalid.
4. **Caleb Mutfwang (PDP):**
– Nentawe Goshwe of the APC contested the victory of Caleb Mutfwang, alleging that the governor was not validly nominated and sponsored by his party.
– The Court of Appeal, led by Justice Elfrieda Williams-Dawodu, ruled that Mutfwang was not legitimately sponsored by the PDP, citing a failure to adhere to a standing High Court order.
– Governor Mutfwang has directed his legal team to submit an appeal to the Supreme Court, expressing hope for the reinstatement of his mandate.
These legal battles underscore the complexity and scrutiny surrounding recent gubernatorial elections in various states.