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Cablegate: Judgment of Yola -- Pdp Governor's Election

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

261326Z Mar 04

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 000539

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM NI
SUBJECT: JUDGMENT OF YOLA -- PDP GOVERNOR'S ELECTION
NULLIFIED

REF: A. ABUJA 523

B. ABUJA 519

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED, NOT FOR PUBLICATION ON THE
INTERNET OR INTRANET.

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (U) An election tribunal on March 24 nullified the
election of PDP Governor Bonie Haruna, VP Atiku's protege, in
Atiku's home Adamawa state. The judgment delivered in Yola
amidst tight security and police intimidation was a unanimous
decision of the five-judge panel that the April 19, 2003
election in Adamawa was marred by irregularities and that
INEC had not complied with the provisions of the Electoral
Act. The tribunal ordered fresh elections in fourteen local
government areas while accepting the results in four others
that ANPP candidate Modibbo did not dispute, and did not say
the ANPP had won the 2003 election. The PDP has not tipped
its hand whether it will appeal the Yola decision.
Nevertheless, the ANPP gained new hope for the similar suit
of its losing presidential candidate Buhari against the
elections for President/VP held with the gubernatorial
elections on the same day, April 19, across Nigeria (Ref A).
The ruling could also add more tension to Nigeria's March 27
Local Government Area elections (Ref B), which in most places
will be contested by the PDP and ANPP. End Summary.

-------------------
LAYING DOWN THE LAW
-------------------

2. (U) Justice Zanna Kashim, at the head of a reconstituted
Elections Tribunal for Adamawa State, on 24 March nullified
the election of Bonie Haruna. Security measures taken by the
Government prior to the judgment had created fear and tension
among the Adamawa's citizens that the court's decision would
be rigged. Kashim surprised them, delivering a unanimous
tribunal decision that also accused the
"government-controlled INEC" and others of failing to
impartially conduct the election.

3. (U) The trial session was initially scheduled for 8am. By
7, hundreds of ANPP supporters had assembled at the
courtroom. Police dispersed the crowd with sporadic gunshots
in the air. The police commissioner, Hafiz Ringim summoned
the ANPP petitioner Adamu Modibbo to tell him the judgment
would be rendered at 2:00 instead, and tell Modibbo to return
to the police station for an escort to the court. He also
told Modibbo that only twenty ANPP supporters would be
allowed into the court to witness the decision. But by the
time Moddibo and his Ringim-led convoy arrived at the hall,
the place was packed with his supporters. Moddibo had to
come out of his vehicle to address supporters who refused to
leave the scene and were already throwing "pure water" bags
at the building.

---------
REACTIONS
---------

4. (SBU) Speaking with confidence and clarity in spite of the
absence of a microphone, Kashim's judgment was sprinkled with
legal terms, articulate logic and a strong sense of humor
that kept his audience spellbound for the four hours it took
to read the decision. As Kashim read the judgment, his words
sparked spontaneous cheers and jubilation in the courtroom.
Modibbo's supporters mobbed his house afterwards,
congratulating him and praising "God for the victory". An
obviously elated Modibbo told PolSpecialist "We have always
maintained that these people (PDP) cannot win elections in a
free and fair contest, only by rigging; this judgment shows
that some conscientious judges remain in the judiciary in
spite of public cynicism." When reminded that Governor
Haruna can appeal against the judgment, Modibbo responded
confidently, "If they like, they can go the International
Court of Justice; as long as the court would fairly listen to
own side of the story, they cannot triumph!"

5. (U) Governor Haruna made a broadcast to the state on the
morning of March 25 that he was still the chief executive
governor, regardless of the previous day's verdict.
Describing the verdict as "unfair," Haruna highlighted his
options of appealing against the judgment, or complying with
it and contesting new elections. "My party and the
Government are analyzing the two options; we shall dutifully
inform you of our stand whenever we reach our conclusion,"
Haruna said. He then went on to accuse the opposition of
"plotting to destabilize the peaceful co-existence" of
Adamawa.

6. (U) The police in Yola reportedly fired tear-gas canisters
and beat people with batons who assembled to stage a public
rally on March 25 in support of the judgment and Modibbo.

------------
THE JUDGMENT
------------

7. (SBU) Justice Kashim apologized that he could not bring
copies of the judgment but promised to make it available
within a few days. In his reading, Kashim said that the
petitioner had challenged the election on two grounds:
electoral malpractices and noncompliance with the Electoral
Law. "The petitioner has sufficiently proved his case beyond
reasonable doubt." Kashim noted that that the petitioner had
brought before the tribunal oral and documentary evidence to
prove the allegations against Bonie Haruna and the
"Independent National Electoral Commission" (INEC), and
Haruna and INEC had not rebutted them. (NOTE: A source
close to the tribunal told PolSpecialist that 776 documentary
exhibits were tendered and admitted.) Kashim said most of
the defense testimony lacked merit and in many cases was
contradictory. After careful examination of all the evidence
and oral testimonies, the tribunal was convinced that "the
first respondent (Governor Haruna) as declared by the second
respondent (INEC) was not validly elected and his election is
hereby nullified."

8. (U) Kashim quoted extensively from the Electoral Act in
supporting the claims of the petitioner that provisions of
the Act were not applied during the elections. The problems
highlighted included voter intimidation, non-compliance with
INEC's own electoral guidelines, and denial of the
opportunity to eligible voters to cast ballots. Justice
Kashim said "glaring alterations, mutilation and
cancellations" of registration cards were made by INEC
officials "to confer undue advantage" to Haruna.

9. (U) The tribunal discovered many polling stations where
there was one hundred percent turnout or more, and Justice
Kashim emphasized that "it does not take a mathematical
genius" to know that most of the figures were wrong. He
cited an example of one ward where 100 percent turnout was
recorded, including a legislator, Alexander Chom, who was
well known to have died before the election. One witness had
told the tribunal "I had to exhaust the registration cards
given me because the person who gave me the job instructed me
to do so." Kashim said the Electoral Act states "Where the
votes cast at an election in any Constituency or Polling
Station exceed the number of registered voters in that
Constituency or Polling Station, the election for that
Constituency or Polling Station shall be declared null and
void by the Commission (INEC) and another election shall be
conducted at a date to be fixed by the Commission." By their
ruling, the tribunal has ordered INEC to set a new election.

10. (U) Kashim also said that Modibbo had proved that some
INEC employees were Haruna's supporters and card-carrying PDP
members, when the Electoral Act does not allow supporters or
members of parties contesting the elections to work the
elections for INEC. Kashim cited the attendance records
submitted by Modibbo for the "Bonie Solidarity Group,"
Haruna's re-election committee, and the INEC assignment
sheets for the elections carrying the same names.

-------
COMMENT
-------

11. (SBU) Although the judgment can be appealed, its timing
was bad for the ruling PDP. Thousands of Local Government
Area (LGA) seats are up for election March 27 across the
country, and ANPP candidate Buhari's suit against President
Obasanjo's election is still in court. The national
President/VP/Governor elections were held together on April
19, 2003. While the tribunal did not specify that the
presidential election was invalid in Adamawa, it and the
gubernatorial race were assumedly subject to the same
"malpractices and non-compliance" that day. The Adamawa
tribunal's emboldening the opposition will raise the
potential for clashes in the runup and aftermath of LGA
elections this Saturday, whether the ruling PDP appeals the
tribunal's decision or not. The tribunal's decision against
his protege may also weaken VP Atiku against his rivals
inside as well as outside the ruling PDP.
ROBERTS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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