The fate of the 2023 presidential election rests in the hands of five distinguished judges who are presiding over the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal. These judges are responsible for reviewing the petitions filed by various political parties challenging the outcome of the election.
The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, which has been hearing petitions related to the 2023 presidential election, has scheduled September 6, 2023, as the date for delivering its judgment. The tribunal has been considering petitions from five political parties, including the PDP, LP, Action Peoples Party (APP), Allied Peoples Movement (APM), and the Action Alliance (AA), all seeking to annul the victory of President Bola Tinubu.
The five-man panel of justices, presided over by Justice Haruna Tsammani, will convene on the day of judgment to deliberate and possibly vote on the issues raised during the trial. It’s important to note that the tribunal’s decision is not final, as any dissatisfied party can still appeal to the Supreme Court.
This judgment date marks a significant milestone in the post-election legal process, and it will be closely watched by the political parties involved and the general public. The decision reached by the tribunal will have far-reaching implications for the outcome of the 2023 presidential election.
Let’s meet these judges:
1. Justice Tsammani:
Haruna Tsammani, 64 was appointed a Justice of the appeal court in 2010. He received his degree from the Nigeria Law School, Lagos in 1983. He was appointed a high court judge in Bauchi state on September 17, 1998.
Tsammani is not new to electoral tribunal sittings. In December 2015, he was a part of the five-man panel of the appeal court which dismissed an appeal instituted by a former governor of Oyo state, Rashidi Ladoja against the election of the late former governor, Abiola Ajimobi.
Similarly, in 2019, Tsammani wrote the lead judgment for an election petition submitted by Ajimobi who contested the decision of the 2019 Election Petition Tribunal, which on November 19 of that same year confirmed Kola Balogun of the PDP as the winner of the senatorial election for Oyo state. Ajimobi’s petition was rejected by Tsammani, who in the lead judgment noted that the petition lacked merit.
He served as the chairman of the three-man panel that granted Obi and Atiku’s applications to serve Tinubu their petitions by substituted means. He also presided over the Value Added Tax case between the Rivers State Government and the Federal Government. He is ranked 12th on the seniority list of the Court of Appeal.
2. Justice Adah
Justice Stephen Jonah Adah- The 66-year-old justice from the Asaba Division of the Court of Appeal graduated from the Nigeria Law School in 1982. He hails from Kogi state. He was appointed as a judge of the Federal High Court on November 12, 1998.
He was part of the justices promoted to the appeal court in November 2012.
One of his landmark judgments was delivered in an appeal filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission 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.
Adah led the panel that affirmed Enugu state’s Ifeanyi Ubah as a senator after he was sacked over alleged certificate forgery. He also led the panel that affirmed Valentine Ozigbo as the Peoples Democratic Party governorship candidate for the Anambra governorship election in 2022. He is ranked 22nd on the seniority list of the Court of Appeal.
3. Justice Bolaji-Yusuf
Justice Misitura Bolaji-Yusuf – The only female justice in the tribunal was born on August 7, 1959. She hails from Oyo state where she started her education at Oranyan Grammar School between 1972 and 1973 before proceeding to the Breman Asikuma Secondary School, Central Region, Ghana between 1973 and 1976. She attended the Obafemi Awolowo University between 1979 and 1983 and also attended the Nigerian Law School from 1983 to 1984.
Bolaji-Yusuf was appointed as a justice in the Oyo state high court on January 30, 1997 where she delivered major judgments. She was appointed to the Court of Appeal on March 24, 2014.
One of her lead judgments was delivered during the hearing of an N5.6 billion pension scam in Oyo state. The case involved the EFCC and 12 other persons in the Oyo state civil service.
She was on the panel that affirmed that the candidates of the Godwin Obaseki-faction were the authentic candidates to participate in Edo State in the 2023 elections. She is ranked 31st on the seniority list of the Court of Appeal.
4. Justice Ugo
Justice Boloukuoromo Moses Ugo- The Bayelsa-State-born justice is from Kolokuma/Opokuma local government area of the state. Born in 1965, Ugo began his education at the State school, Igbedi in Bayelsa state from 1972 to 1978. He proceeded to the Government Secondary School, Asoama, Sabagreia in Bayelsa state from 1977 to 1982. He attended the University of Calabar where he studied law from 1985 to 1989. He obtained his degree in law from the Nigeria Law School, Lagos in 1990.
Justice Ugo was appointed as a justice of the high court of Bayelsa state in March 2006. He became an appellate court justice in March 2014. He is ranked 44th on the seniority list of the Court of Appeal.
5. Justice Bello
Justice Mohammed Abba Bello- The 62-year-old jurist from Kano State graduated from the Nigerian Law School in 1985. In 2010, he was appointed to the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory. He presided over the Nasarawa State Governorship Election Tribunal in 2019. David Ombugadu, the PDP candidate for governor in the general election of 2019, had filed a suit against INEC and Governor Abdullahi Sule of the All Progressive Congress.
However, Justice Mohammed rejected the petition on the grounds that it lacked merit, noting that the petitioner’s claims of excessive voting and electoral violence could not be supported. He is ranked 71st on the seniority list of the Court of Appeal.