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Binani drags INEC to court again, seeks review of election result

INEC has announced that it will arraign the now suspended Adamawa State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Yunusa Hudu Ari.

Aisha 'Binani' Dahiru

The candidate, whose real name is Aisha Dahiru and popularly known as "Binani," had her victory in the March 18 governorship election nullified by INEC.

Represented by her counsel, Michael Aondoaka, SAN, Binani submitted a fresh lawsuit before Justice Donatus Okorowo of the Federal High Court in Abuja. The lawsuit, filed as an ex-parte motion with the reference FHC/ABJ/CS/935/2023, lists INEC, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and Governor Ahmadu Fintiri, the PDP candidate, as the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd respondents, respectively.

Binani is seeking a judicial review of INEC's decision to overturn her initial announcement as the winner of the election, which was made by the state's Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Hudu Yunusa-Ari. During the hearing, Aondoaka argued that the election petition tribunal held the authority to determine his client's fate, referring to Section 149 of the Electoral Act, 2022.

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Aondoaka expressed concerns that INEC's decision would deprive Binani of the provisions under Section 285(6), which allows 180 days for the resolution of her petition filed before the tribunal on May 6. He informed the court that a similar lawsuit had been previously filed before Justice Inyang Ekwo, who directed Binani to approach the tribunal for any election-related matter.

Consequently, Aondoaka requested a review of INEC's action and provided an undertaking to demonstrate that the present lawsuit was not frivolous. The undertaking assured that they were prepared to bear any costs if the court found the case to be frivolous. After listening to Aondoaka's arguments, Justice Okorowo adjourned the matter for ruling.

It is worth recalling that Binani had withdrawn a previous lawsuit before Justice Ekwo on April 26 after Governor Fintiri's declaration as the winner of the governorship poll. Binani's counsel, Mohammed Sheriff, had filed a notice of discontinuance and requested the court to strike out the case. However, Justice Ekwo reminded Sheriff of the court's earlier order, requiring him to address whether the court had jurisdiction over the case. As Sheriff failed to comply with the order, the judge decided to dismiss the matter.

In the early hours of Sunday, April 16, 2023, Nigerians were shocked by the declaration of Senator Aishatu Dahiru Ahmed, popularly known as Binani, as the winner of the Adamawa State Governorship elections by the Adamawa REC, Hudu Yunusa-Ari. The public outcry and condemnation arose because, according to the 2022 Electoral Act, the announcement was supposed to be made by the State Returning/Collation Officer, not the REC. Moreover, the results were still being collected when Ari made the controversial declaration.

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Allegations suggested that the INEC REC sneaked into the state governorship collation centre to declare Senator Ahmed as the winner. However, according to the official results released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Binani was trailing behind Governor Ahmadu Fintiri, who had a lead of 31,249 votes before the untimely declaration.

Before the supplementary polls, Fintiri had already received 421,524 votes compared to Binani's 390,275 votes. However, the state returning officer, Professor Mohammed Mele, couldn't declare Fintiri the winner because the margin of lead didn't exceed the number of cancelled votes in 69 polling units, totaling 37,016. This led to a supplementary election.

During the resumption of the collation of results from the supplementary polls held on Saturday, April 15, 2023, a mild drama unfolded. Ari, who had abruptly suspended the collation exercise and rescheduled it for 11 am on Sunday, April 6, arrived at the collation center at 9:00 am, two hours ahead of schedule, to declare Binani the winner.

In response to widespread condemnation, INEC urged Nigerians to disregard the action of the Adamawa REC. INEC accused him of usurping the powers of the Returning Officer, Professor Mele, by prematurely announcing the results that had not been properly tallied and concluded.

Taking further action, INEC declared Ari's announcement null and void, having no legal effect. The electoral body later summoned the Resident Electoral Commissioner to its headquarters in Abuja for questioning, although he was later released.

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INEC has announced that it will arraign the now suspended Adamawa State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Yunusa Hudu Ari, before an Adamawa State High Court in Yola, the State capital, on Wednesday, July 12.

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