HURIWA Urges ICPC Probe as Gov. Sule Plans to Appeal Verdict

HURIWA Urges ICPC Probe as Gov. Sule Plans to Appeal Verdict
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The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has made an urgent appeal to the Independent and Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission (ICPC) to conduct a thorough investigation into allegations that Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State might be utilizing state funds to support his legal battle following his recent defeat at the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal.

In an official statement released on Wednesday, HURIWA expressed deep concerns regarding reports suggesting that Governor Sule could be tapping into the state’s financial resources to sustain his ongoing legal efforts aimed at challenging the tribunal’s verdict.

“This verdict decisively recognized the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), David Ombugadu, as the rightful winner of the highly contentious March 18 governorship election in Nasarawa State”. The tribunal, led by Justice Ezekiel Ajayi, found that Ombugadu had provided evidence that the election results were manipulated in favor of the APC and had the majority of valid votes”.

While HURIWA acknowledges the governor’s right to appeal the decision, it issued a warning against the potential misuse of state funds to finance the appeal and urged Governor Sule not to further deplete the state’s finances by funding a potentially fruitless appeal. Instead, the organization called on him to respect the tribunal’s verdict and uphold the principles of democracy.

HURIWA Urges ICPC Probe as Gov. Sule Plans to Appeal Verdict
    Abdullahi Sule

    HURIWA emphasized that the misuse of public funds for personal political battles is a form of corruption that undermines the principles of good governance and transparency. “Such actions represent a serious violation of the foundations of democratic governance and ethical conduct, posing a direct threat to Nigeria’s democracy and its essential principles of integrity and accountability”.

    In response to these grave concerns, HURIWA called on the Independent and Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to initiate an immediate and comprehensive investigation into Governor Sule’s financial transactions and the utilization of public resources by his administration, stressing that the objective of the investigation is to determine whether state funds have been diverted to finance the governor’s legal campaign and take appropriate action if any wrongdoing is found.

    Furthermore, HURIWA called for significant electoral reforms to address the issue of litigation arising from elections. The organization contended that the current practice, where sitting governors are allowed to use state resources to contest election results in court, is detrimental to the democratic process and can potentially lead to financial abuse of state resources.

    HURIWA echoed the views of legal experts such as retired Justice Peter Ige of the Court of Appeal, proposing that the electoral process should be reformed to ensure that all legal disputes related to elections are resolved before the winners are sworn into office. This, according to the rights group, would pave the way for a more transparent and accountable electoral system. HURIWA suggested that incumbents temporarily hand over power to Chief Justices or Chief Judges, in the case of state governors, while election-related litigation is concluded.

    HURIWA Urges ICPC Probe as Gov. Sule Plans to Appeal Verdict
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      “According to Justice Ige, concluding the post-election matters before the winners are sworn in, would be of mutual benefit to all the stakeholders in the electoral process and adjudication. He also stated that pre-election matters should be concluded before the general elections”.

      Additionally, HURIWA recommended a two-tiered approach to handling election disputes, with the governorship and presidential polls being exclusively handled by the Appeal Court and Supreme Court, while other election-related matters are resolved at regular tribunals, terminating at the Appeal Court.

      HURIWA concluded by emphasizing the need for these reforms to promote fairness, transparency, and the rule of law in Nigeria’s electoral processes just as it called on relevant authorities, including the National Assembly, to consider and implement these reforms to strengthen the nation’s democracy and prevent the misuse of public resources for personal political gain.

      HURIWA recalled the opinion of an observer whose position was widely canvassed by many voters spoken to by a team from HURIWA that was embedded with groups of accredited observers and reporters during the poll, this learned observer said that Nasarawa State People’s Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate Hon. David Ombugadu, whom the State governorship elections petitions tribunal Monday declared winner of the March 18 governorship election in the state punctured the rigged results declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for Lafia Local Government Area to prove he indeed won the election.

      HURIWA Urges ICPC Probe as Gov. Sule Plans to Appeal Verdict
        David Ombudagu

        As aforementioned, the election petition tribunal had on Monday ordered INEC to withdraw the certificate of return earlier awarded to the All Progressives Party (APC) candidate, Abdullahi Sule, and hand the same over to Ombugadu.

        HURIWA learned from the observer who preferred to remain anonymous that one of the most interesting witness’ testimonies at the tribunal was how APC’s A.A. Sule managed to poll 33,000 votes in Gayam and Ciroma wards in Lafia LGA when, according to the INEC register, both wards had13,000 registered voters.

        “There were four major contenders for the 2023 Nasarawa governorship election. David Ombugadu of the PDP; Abdullahi Sule of the APC; Abdullahi Yakubu Maidoya of the New Nigeria People’s’ Party (NNPP), and Mustapha Abubakar of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Of the quartet, Ombugadu was the only Christian.”

        Recall that 24 hours after the election (March 19, 2023), INEC promised to declare the result of the governorship poll at 9 am the following day (March 20, 2023). However, the state returning Officer Professor Tanko Ishaya, emerged five hours earlier than promised (4 am) and declared APC’s Sule winner. According to the INEC officer, APC’s Sule polled 347,209 votes to defeat PDP’s David Ombugadu he declared scored 283,016 votes.

        Read Also: HURIWA TO ICPC /CCB-: Save Nigerian Local Councils From Governors’ Corruption;

        The INEC officer’s declaration threw several citizens of the state into anger as many were expecting Ombugadu’s declaration as the winner since he was leading with a comfortable margin in 12 of the 13 LGAs announced at the time. Giving the breakdown for Lafia LGA, INEC said Sule polled 107, 213 votes against Ombugadu’s 41, 494, a difference of 57,619 votes. This declaration has been legally invalidated.

         

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