On Friday, the Supreme Court confirmed the election of Zamfara Governor Dauda Lawal.
The judgment of the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal dated November 16, 2023, which held that the March 18 governorship election was inconclusive, was set aside by the apex court.
It concluded that Lawal, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, received the majority of valid votes and that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) rightly declared him the winner of the governorship race.
The appeal court's decision was described as “perverse” by the top court in its main judgment, delivered by Justice Emmanuel Agim.
It upheld Lawal's election and upheld the earlier ruling of the Zamfara State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal Victory.
It would be recalled that INEC had reported that Governor Lawal of the PDP had won a total of 377,726 votes to emerge victorious over the previous governor of the state and the incumbent Minister of State for Defense, Bello Matawalle, who earned 311,976 votes.
On September 18, 2023, the tribunal upheld the INEC declaration, ruling that Matawalle, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, had not provided sufficient evidence to support his claim that some polling station results had been ignored by the electoral body.
The panel also ruled that Matawalle and his party, despite awarding the appellants compensation of N500,000, had not provided sufficient evidence to support their claim that INEC had violated electoral laws during the elections.
The Court of Appeal has revoked Governor Dauda's return as the winner of the gubernatorial contest.
In three Local Government Areas (LGAs) in the state where election results were illegally canceled or not counted, INEC mandated the holding of fresh elections.
The Court of Appeal specifically directed INEC to conduct polls at certain polling stations in Birnin-Magaji and Bukyum LGAs, but also ordered a fresh poll in Maradun LGA of the state.
According to the court, the arbitral tribunal incorrectly assessed the evidence submitted to it by the parties.
It concluded that INEC erred in law when it compiled the governorship election results using data from its IReV platform.
The court ruled that the IReV was not intended as a platform for collecting election results, but rather solely for the benefit of the public.
Furthermore, the Court of Appeal emphasized that given the presence of over 98,904 votes in the three affected LGAs, INEC should not have returned to the elections in line with the principle of margin of leadership.
It was decided that Matawalle, the appellant, had effectively met the legal burden of proof to invalidate Governor Lawal's declaration as the legitimate victor of the governor's race.
“The first respondent was not duly elected by a majority of lawful votes. His return was not in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act,” the appeal court ruled.
However, the Court of Appeal ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court on Friday, saying it was incorrect and defied the preponderance of the evidence.