The Kano State National and State Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal has nullified the election of a member of the House of Representatives, Surajo Harisu, representing Dambatta/Makoda Federal Constituency on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The three-man tribunal also declared Alhaji Badamasi Ayuba of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) winner of the April 9 House of Representatives election, having scored the highest number of lawful votes.
Tribunal Chairman, Justice Muhktar Ladipo Abimbola said the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) wrongfully rejected the valid votes cast for the petitioner.
He ruled that the onus of proving whether or not a ballot paper is wrongfully or rightfully rejected rests on INEC, which he said failed to prove the justification for the rejection of the votes.
Justice Abimbola said: “The oral evidence, thereof, that the rejected votes were wrongfully rejected, is sufficient evidence linking the rejected votes to the case of the petitioner.
“We have looked with serious pains and examined very carefully and scrutinised the certified copies of the rejected ballot papers, which are in 7,683 ballot papers. Out of this number, 6,983 votes were validly cast in favour of the petitioner.
“An examination of the ballot papers shows that most of them were rejected because of ink stains. Section 54, Subsection 1 of the Electoral Act states specifically that any ink stain from the staining of the thump of the voter on any part of the ballot paper, in our view, shall not be a ground for rejecting a ballot paper, if the choice of the voter is very clear.
“The petitioner pleaded copiously and specified the number of votes he claimed were wrongfully rejected by INEC. In our view, this is prima facie proof and this proof ought to have been contradicted or controverted by officials of INEC who, instead, admitted that at the election, there were indeed rejected votes.
“INEC officials have the duty to prove the justification for the rejection of the votes but failed to plead or produce any evidence before us.
“We, therefore, hold that the 6,983 votes, which were validly cast for the first petitioner, were wrongfully rejected by INEC. These votes ought to have been added to the votes of the first petitioner…
“Judgment is, therefore, given in favour of the petitioner and the election of the first respondent is hereby set aside. INEC is hereby mandated to issue the first respondent the Certificate of Return.”