…rejects ‘clerical error’ excuse

Legal scholar and former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Prof Chidi Odinkalu, has criticized Nigeria’s appellate court for producing a contradictory Certified True Copy (CTC) of its recent verdict on the disputed Kano State governorship polls.

Odinkalu rejected suggestions that conflicting aspects of the CTC were just innocent clerical errors.

The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja had a week ago nullified the election of Kano State governor, Abba Kabir Yusuf, of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).

The appellate court, in a unanimous decision by a three-member panel of justices, held that Governor Yusuf was not a valid candidate in the gubernatorial election held in the state on March 18.

However, the Certified True Copy (CTC) of the judgement that emerged on Tuesday showed the appellate court affirming Yusuf as governor, contradicting its earlier verbal sack of the governor.

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In an attempt to clarify the controversy, Appeal Court Registrar Umar Bangari blamed it on a typo error which he claimed does not change the conclusion.

But speaking on Wednesday during an interview on Channels TV, Odinkalu emphasized that while the legal principle of Slip Rule allows corrections of minor typos, fundamentally altering binding conclusions and changing the favoured party post-judgement constitutes malfeasance.

According to the professor, the CTC’s finding overturning the lower tribunal decision and awarding costs to incumbent Governor Abba Yusuf is irreconcilable with the appeal court also verbally pronouncing Yusuf’s election sack last Friday. He insisted that only higher courts can reopen questions already judicially resolved.

Odinkalu argued the inability of Africa’s second highest court to avoid such disorder while certifying the judgement shows the Nigerian judiciary in unflattering light.

“No system that is credible will produce this kind of judgement and certify it…any lawyer worth their onions should be scandalized,” Odinkalu stated, stressing the failings rob citizens of trust in getting justice.

The increasingly controversial Kano governorship legal dispute is now likely heading to the Supreme Court as Governor Yusuf pushes to reclaim his mandate. But Odinkalu insists the Appeal Court first has to clarify its inconsistent judgement.