As Nigerians await the judgments in the petitions filed to challenge the February 25 presidential election, Wale Igbintade profiles the five jurists of the Presidential Election Petition Court, who will have the opportunity to engrave their names in gold
After the legal fireworks that lasted for about three months in the court, the five-man panel of the Presidential Election Petition Court sitting in Abuja penultimate week reserved judgments on the various petitions filed to challenge the outcome of the February 25 presidential election.
Although the decision of the court is not final, as a displeased party can still appeal to the Supreme Court, many feel that the decision of the jurists would definitely set the tone of the final decision of the Supreme Court, either in concurrence or disagreement.
For now, while Nigerians are waiting with bathed breath to see what the panelists would come up, only a profile that would reveal their trajectories would suffice.
Justice Haruna Simon Tsammani
Justice Haruna Tsammani was born on November 23, 1959. He hails from Tafawa Balewa LGA of Bauchi State.
The judge obtained his LL.B degree from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1982. He attended the Nigerian Law School, Lagos for his BL in 1983, and started as a High Court judge in Bauchi State on September 17, 1998. He was later elevated to the Court of Appeal on July 16, 2010.
Justice Tsammani has presided over various election and financial matters as a judge. He also presided over the VAT case between the Rivers State Government and the federal government.
As the longest-serving Justice of the Court of Appeal on the five-man panel, Justice Tsammani has spent half of his 24 years as a judge on the Court of Appeal bench. Though this is his first time participating in the panel of a presidential election petition court, a rarity that only a handful of judges in a generation are opportune to be involved in, Justice Tsammani is well-familiar with intra-and inter-party disputes in Nigeria. He has been adjudicating on an election petition or political case.
Justice Tsammani prepared the lead judgment that dismissed Abiola Ajimobi’s petition challenging the judgment of the 2019 Election Petition Tribunal which had on November 19, the same year, upheld PDP’s Kola Balogun as the winner of the senatorial election for Oyo South held on February that year for lacking in merit, holding that a person who was not part of a political party has no right to challenge the outcome of its primary election.
On July 4, 2020, he delivered one of the judgments of the Court of Appeal in Abuja that affirmed the second term election of Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State. He also gave the lead judgment of the court that handed back the control of APC in Kano State to the outgoing governor, Abdullahi Gaduje, in February last year.
In October 2021, he led the three-member panel of the court that dismissed the suit by the suspended National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Uche Secondus, to allow the party to hold a hitch-free national convention.
He also led the panel of the court that gave the October 2022 judgment suspending the release of the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, from custody after the charges against the secessionist were dismissed in an earlier judgment of the court.
He is ranked 12th on the seniority list of the Court of Appeal.
Justice Stephen Adah
Justice Stephen Adah who is the presiding Justice of the Asaba Division of the Court of Appeal, was born on June 13, 1957. He hails from Dekina Local Government Area of Kogi State.
Adah obtained his LL.B degree from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in 1981. He attended the Nigerian Law School, Lagos, for his BL in 1982.
He was appointed a judge of the Federal High Court on November 12, 1998, and later elevated to the Court of Appeal on November 5, 2012. He served as a member of the three-man panel that granted Obi and Atiku’s motions to serve Tinubu their petitions by substituted means.
Adah has delivered verdicts on several cases and one of his landmark decisions was in the appeal filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2020 against a trial court’s decision which partially upheld the no-case submission filed by former President Goodluck Jonathan’s cousin, Robert Azibaola.
He led the panel that affirmed Ifeanyi Ubah as a Senator after his sack over alleged certificate forgery. He also led the panel that affirmed Valentine Ozigbo as the PDP governorship candidate for the Anambra State Governorship election. He is ranked 22nd on the seniority list of the Court of Appeal.
Adah served as a member of the three-man panel that granted Obi and Atiku’s motions to serve Tinubu their petitions by substituted means.
He is ranked 22nd on the Seniority list of the Court of Appeal.
Justice Mistura Bolaji-Yusuf
Justice Misitura Bolaji-Yusuf is the only female member of the five-man panel of the court. She was born on August 7, 1959, and hails from Oyo West LGA of Oyo State.
The judge obtained her LL.B degree from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife in 1983. She attended the Nigerian Law School the following year for her BL certificate.
She was appointed a Judge of the High Court of Oyo State on January 30, 1997, and later elevated to the Court of Appeal on March 24, 2014.
Though not much has really been heard about her in the media, as a judge of the High Court of Oyo, Justice Bolaji-Yusuf issued an order that invalidated the steps taken by the then acting Chief Judge of Oyo, Justice Afolabi Adeniran, which led to the illegal removal of the then governor, Rashidi Ladoja.
Although the Acting Chief Judge withdrew the case from her, her ruling was the first major blow to the entire impeachment process which the Supreme Court would also later nullify. The Supreme Court declared the process null and void and reinstated Ladoja in its judgment delivered on November 11, 2006.
She also delivered the lead judgment of the three-man panel of the Benin Division of the Court of Appeal that affirmed the first-term election of Governor Godwin Obaseki in June 2017. She was on the panel that affirmed that candidates of the Obaseki-faction were the authentic candidates to participate in the 2023 elections.
Justice Boloukuoromo Ugo
At 57, Justice Boloukuoromo Ugo is the youngest among the judges on the panel of the Presidential Election Petition Court. He hails from Kolokuma/Opokua Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
Justice Ugo obtained his LL.B degree from the University of Calabar in 1989, before proceeding to the Nigerian Law School in Lagos the following year, for his BL certificate. He was appointed a Judge of the High Court of Bayelsa State on March 21, 2006, and later elevated to the Court of Appeal on March 24, 2014.
Though judge, who is currently serving at the Kano Division of the Court of Appeal, is hardly visible in the media, many see his participation in the court panel as a pivotal turn in his career, placing him on a national, if not global stage where the public can gain insights into the workings of his judicial mind for the first time.
He is ranked 44th on the seniority list of the Court of Appeal.
Justice Abba Mohammed
Justice Abba Mohammed hails from Kano State. He was born on February 19, 1961. He obtained his LL.B degree from the Institute of Administration, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1984, before proceeding to the Nigerian Law School in Lagos the following year, for his BL Certificate in 1985.
Justice Mohammed was appointed a judge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in 2010. After serving for about 10 years, he was promoted to the Court of Appeal on June 28, 2021. He was the Chairman of the Nasarawa State Governorship Election Tribunal in 2019.
The PDP governorship candidate in the 2019 general election, Hon. David Ombugadu had sued INEC and Governor Abdullahi Sule of the All Progressives Congress (APC). But Justice Mohammed dismissed the petition for lacking in merit, holding that the petitioner’s allegation of over-voting and electoral violence could not be substantiated.
Analysts see his participation in the Presidential Election Petition Court as a defining milestone in his profile.
He currently ranks 71st of the 76 judges on the roll call of the Court of Appeal.
Politicians Frustrating Nigerians, Another Protest Worse Than Endsars Looms — Aisha Yesufu
Popular socio-political activist, Aisha Yesufu, has said corrupt politicians in Nigeria are frustrating the masses, which can lead to another nationwide protest.
Yesufu said the anger burning in the hearts of Nigerians may sponsor another protest hotter than the one experienced in 2020 tagged ‘EndSARS’.
In 2020, Nigerians staged demonstrations across the nation to call for the end of the police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, notorious for brutalising youths.
The protest, which started on Twitter (now X), resulted in mass demonstrations occurring in all major cities of the country and accompanied by violence.
It led to the death of many young Nigerians, especially after military personnel shot at peaceful protesters at Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos.
Yesufu, the co-convener of the BringBackOur Girls, who was one of the activists at the centre of the protest, said Nigerians might just be caught unaware in another demonstration.
She made this known via X account, writing: “Nobody saw the #EndSARS protest coming. Nobody will see the next uprising coming.
“Sadly, it might end up being violent. There is simmering anger fuelled by the impunity and brazenness of the corrupt politicians and rulers, who have rigged their way into power. Nobody will be spared.”
Decision Day In Imo, Bayelsa, Kogi: INEC Affirms Readiness, DHQ Uncovers Plot To Cause Mayhem
• There will be injurious consequences, DHQ warns unknown gunmen
• ICPC deploys operatives to prevent vote-buying
• Police read riot act, warn perpetrators of violence, sponsors
The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has said there are intelligence reports of plans by desperate politicians to cause violence with hoodlums wearing military uniform.
Responding to questions from newsmen at the bi-weekly briefing in Abuja yesterday, Director, Defence Media Operations, Major General Edward Buba, issued a stern warning to gunmen planning to disguise in military wears to cause violence during Saturday’s off-cycle governorship elections in Kogi, Imo, and Bayelsa states.
He warned that there would be injurious consequences for their actions, adding that the Nigerian military will not fold its arms and watch its image dragged into the mud during Saturday’s election.
He issued the warning while briefing journalists on military operations to counter threats of terrorists, bandits/kidnappers, oil theft perpetrators and other forms of insecurity across the country.
“For the off-season elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi states this weekend, here is a message for you. The military is deployed in strength for the election to create a safe environment for voters to peacefully come out and cast their votes.
“However, we are aware of plans of some people to disguise themselves in military gear to orchestrate havoc and disrupt elections in some areas. Our message to such a group is that there will be injurious consequences for such an action,” he said.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Thursday, distributed electoral materials to all 27 Local Council Areas of Imo State ahead of tomorrow’s governorship election. The distribution took place at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) branch in Owerri. The electoral materials distributed were Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machines, ballot papers and result sheets for the polls.
Speaking to newsmen on the movement of the electoral materials, the Southeast National Commissioner, Kenneth Ukeagu, said INEC was ready for the election, adding that the election would go freely as INEC officials have been trained properly to do the needful. He also urged the electorate to come out en masse and participate in the election.
According to him, “we are ready for the election. We are distributing sensitive materials to all the LGAs in the state because elections will take place in all the LGAs in the states. We have received assurance from the security agents for providing adequate security during and after the election. On our part, we are ready and on top of our plans. The people of the state have to come out on Saturday and elect a governor of their choice.”
The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), yesterday announced that it had deployed its operatives to monitor Saturday’s election in Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi.
Spokesperson of the commission, Mrs Azuka Ogugua, stated that ICPC operatives had been deployed in the 56 local government areas and 649 wards in the three states to monitor and prevent vote-buying and other electoral malpractices at the various polling units during the electoral exercise.
The monitoring exercise, according to her, was a response to the invitation by the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, for ICPC to participate in ensuring that the electoral processes in these states are free and fair.
Ogugua charged operatives to strictly adhere to the ICPC guidelines for monitoring elections, adding that they should always act with discipline and imbibe the spirit of integrity while on the field, while adding that the operatives stay close to each other and work as a team to achieve the desired goal.
There are fears that distribution of materials by INEC, threats and counter threats by Biafra agitators may challenge tomorrow’s governorship election in Imo. Aside from fears of availability of commercial drivers to convey sensitive and non-sensitive materials to the flash spots, factions of the Biafra agitators are speaking differently about the exercise.
Already certain spots, including Ohaji/Egbema, Oguta, Orsu, Ihitte Uboma, Isiala Mbano, Okigwe local councils of the state have been identified as dark spots.
A faction of the agitators, led by Simeon Ekpa, asked residents to stay away from the election, while the Nnamdi Kanu-led Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) urged residents to go and vote, threatening to deal with any INEC official caught conniving with politicians to rig the election.
“All those employed and drafted to various polling units to help rig this election will be doing so to their own and family risks; their families must call them to order or they all will sorely regret having participated in this election. Anyone that enthroned evil on the people deserves no mercy. IPOB eyes are at every corner in the state monitoring the activities of political jobbers and criminals”, IPOB said in a statement by its spokesperson, Emma Powerful.
The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kayode Egbetokun, has deployed the Deputy Inspector General (DIG), in charge of Training and Development, Frank Mba, to oversee the election with assurance of protection of lives and property.
Mba has arrived in the state. No fewer than 2,300 soldiers and other security personnel, and other para-military officials are to guard the exercise at various parts of the state.
On Thursday, the Commissioner of Police in Enugu State, Kanayo Uzoegbu said the command was moving 1,500 men to Imo state. He stated that the idea was to boost security and ensure free and fair exercise at the end of the day.
INEC has assured of enough ad-hoc staff to carry out election duties in the prone dark spots. The Commission has deployed nine Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs), to assist the Imo REC, Prof. Sylvia Agu, in ensuring transparent elections.
Meanwhile, Head of Mission, International Organisation for Sustainable Development (IOSD), Dr. Timothy Ihemadu, told The Guardian, on Thursday, that they were concerned about heightened tension in six local government areas of the state, which are volatile.
“If citizens are not confident of their right to vote, the right to be voted for and free and fair atmosphere, in terms of security, it limits their confidence and fundamental right to vote.
“We want security deployed to protect the people and not to intimidate them. The security personnel should be professional and must understand the importance of human rights policing that seeks to protect the people first to avoid voter apathy.
“The NLC order as it concerns Imo and the blackout and air travel is anticipated to affect smooth conduct of the election as the importance of electricity to power election gadgets cannot be over emphasized, as well as arrival of critical personnel who may be challenged to arrive at their duty post”, he stated.
Amid the heightened tension created by alleged stockpiling of arms in Bayelsa and invasion of thugs from neighbouring states, the police, yesterday vowed to arrest and prosecute perpetrators of violence and their sponsors in Bayelsa.
The palpable tension, which is already causing apprehension in the state, was further heightened by the two major contenders and political stakeholders who continue to trade accusations over alleged plans to perpetrate violence.
Addressing a stakeholders’ meeting yesterday at the Police Officers Mess, Yenagoa, the DIG in charge of Saturday’s election, Sokari-Pedro, while assuring that the IGP, Egbetokun, is totally committed to the free, fair, safe and unhindered democratic atmosphere during the election, warned that no electoral offender will be spare.
He stated that though Bayelsa is a peaceful state, the three Senatorial zones are all volatile when it comes to election, while some local governments have already been identified as flashpoints.
“Officers have been directed to carry out a show of force, all the perpetrators of violence be put out of circulation and their sponsors, any civilian that is armed at any polling centre shall be arrested and failure to do that by the police, the police themselves or the sister agent who is responsible for such a lapse will be arrested.
“Any orderly or guard that escorts his principal to the polling centre shall be arrested and thereafter tried in the orderly room, in this case, if care is not taken, may lead to his dismissal.”
In Kogi, INEC reiterated that it is fully ready for the election. Speaking during a critical stakeholders’ meeting preparatory to the election, the INEC chairman, Yakubu said the commission is fully ready for the election. National Commissioner in charge Kogi, Kwara and Niger states, Prof. Sani Mohammed Adam, who spoke on behalf of the chairman, noted that sensitive and non-sensitive materials are on ground.
Given the volatile nature of election conduct in the state, the IGP, Egbetokun warned trouble makers to relocate from Kogi before Saturday. He also warned politicians and the electorate to allow security agents deployed to the state to do their jobs without being subjected to blackmail.
Already, 40,000 policemen and 3,000 men of the civil defence corps have been deployed to the state for the election, in addition to the heavy deployment of military that will complement the efforts of other security agencies.
Meanwhile, the Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello has urged the operatives of the Nigerian Police and other sister agencies to ensure adherence to professional conduct during the Saturday polls. He noted that his party, APC in Kogi State, holds a track record of peaceful electioneering. The governor was speaking when he received the Inspector General of Police, on Wednesday.
The Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) on Thursday, called on INEC to work diligently to reaffirm citizens’ confidence. IPAC also called on citizens in the three states to come out en-masse to exercise their rights to vote.
National Chairman of IPAC, Yabagi Sani, said IPAC has introduced an innovative intervention through Election Results Management System (ERMS), which was recently brought to the attention of INEC Chairman, all 19 National Chairmen and political party candidates.
Sani said: “Choosing leaders based on merit, vision, and their potential impact on the community is vital. Citizens should prioritize candidates who genuinely represent their interests and are committed to the welfare and development of their respective States. By doing so, they can ensure that their votes lead to the election of leaders, who will work towards the betterment of their lives and communities
“Citizens should be proactive in shaping the future of the nation. Grassroots involvement is fundamental to the success of any democracy. By disregarding the negative tactics of political actors and focusing on making informed choices, citizens can contribute to the establishment of a robust and accountable democratic system in Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi by their conduct in the forthcoming election.
“The involvement of security agencies in the electoral process must be based on professionalism, neutrality, and a commitment to the defense of our democracy, rather than partisan interests. The citizens must feel secure in their participation in the electoral process, knowing that their safety and security are assured.”
113 Terrorists Eliminated, 300 Others Arrested In One Week – DHQ
The Defence Headquarters says the troops of the armed forces have eliminated 113 terrorists and apprehended 300 others in different operations in various theatres across the country in the last one week.
The Director, Defence Media Operations, Maj.-Gen. Edward Buba, said this while briefing journalists on the operations of the armed forces on Thursday in Abuja.
Mr Buba said the troops also apprehended 25 perpetrators of oil theft, rescued 91 kidnapped hostages and recovered 129 assorted weapons and 717 assorted ammunition within the period.
In the North East, he said the troops of Operation Hadin Kai, while conducting fighting patrols, arrested BH/ISWAP logistics suppliers in Kukawa, Damboa, Monguno and Konduga Local Government Areas of Borno.
The defence spokesman said the troops eliminated 17 Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists, arrested 16 and rescued six kidnapped hostages, as well as recovered different calibres of arms and ammunition during the period.
He added that the air component of Operation Hadin Kai had, on Nov. 2, engaged terrorists hibernating in the Degbewa area, where several of them were neutralised and had their logistics destroyed.
In the North Central, Mr Buba said the troops of Operation Safe Haven conducted cordon and search operations in parts of Kaduna and Plateau States, killing five terrorists, arresting 14 and rescuing 15 kidnapped hostages.
He added that troops of Operation Operation Whirl Stroke conducted a raid operation at suspected criminal hideouts in parts of Nasarawa, Benue and Plateau States, neutralising two terrorists, arresting 10 and rescuing three kidnapped hostages.
In the North-West, Mr Buba said the troops of Operation Hadarin Daji neutralised 30 terrorists, arrested seven others and rescued 31 kidnapped hostages in Katsina, Kebbi and Zamfara States during the period.
He said the troops also recovered 15 AK47 rifles, one RPG Tube, five RPG bombs, six hand grenades, five pairs of desert camouflages, 10 pairs of magazine purges, IED-making material, unconfirmed no of ammo and the sum of $16,200.
He added that the air component had, on Nov. 2, acquired and conducted an interdiction at a terrorist leader’s residence in Kankara Local Government Area of Katsina State.
According to him, the terrorist leader known as Badaru had several terrorists hibernating at the residence who were neutralised in the air strikes.
“Troops of Operation Whirl Punch conducted an offensive operation against terrorists in Birnin Gwari and Chikun Local Government Areas of Kaduna State, neutralising 23 terrorists, arresting 83 suspects and rescuing four kidnapped hostages.
“Troops recovered 12 AK47 rifles, two pistols, one unserviceable AK47 rifle, 141 rounds of 7.62mm special ammo, one magazine, one motorcycle and three mobile phones,” he said.
In the Niger Delta region, Buba said the troops of Operation Delta Safe denied oil thieves an estimated sum of N571.7 million during the week.
He said the troops discovered and destroyed 76 dugout pits, 35 boats, 95 storage tanks, 10 vehicles, 129 cooking ovens, five pumping machines, 13 speedboats, six outboard engines, one vessel, three motorcycles and 49 illegal refining sites.
“Troops recovered 514,640 litres of stolen crude oil, 339,315 litres of illegally refined AGO and 775 litres of DPK,” he said.
In the South-East, Mr Buba said the troops of Operation UDO KA apprehended 10 suspected IPOB/ESN criminals and recovered one GT3 rifle, one locally fabricated pistol, two pump action guns, two dane guns, 30 live cartridges, two motorcycles and one cutlass amongst other items.
“All recovered items, arrested suspects, and rescued hostages were handed over to the relevant authorities for further action,” he added.