Kano Judgement: Making A Monstrous Mischief Out Of A Minor Mistake

By Bala Ibrahim

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t write on the subject matter, because it is legal, and comes with a lot of technicalities. But such technicalities are regular visitors in the career of my calling-journalism. Blunder, error and lapse are old hat in the newsroom, as such, nothing to get excited about, because they are words provided by the dictionary to stand for mistake. And sometimes, they come under the auspices of honest mistakes.

In journalism, It is the practice of media houses to have proof readers, sub-editors and editors, whose duty is to double check, or read the script for a second time, in order to ensure that the material or news item is accurate or safe for publication. Even with such layers of safety valves, the media make occasional mistakes.

Since yesterday, the media has been awash with comments on the certified true copy, CTC, of the Court of Appeal judgment, on the governorship election petition in Kano State, where, because of mischief, a minor misprint was turned into a major misconduct.

The judgement was verbally delivered on Friday, the 17th of November, 2023, where the Court of Appeal upheld the judgement of the lower Governorship Election Tribunal in the state, and dismissed the appeal of Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf. The controversy that attended the said CTC arose from it’s concluding part, where the Lead Judgement said in one breath that, “I will conclude by stating that the live issues in this appeal are hereby resolved in favor of the 1st respondent (APC) and against the appellant (Gov. Yusuf).

In another breath however, it said, “In the circumstances, I resolve all issues in favor of the appellant (Gov. Yusuf) and against the 1st respondent (APC). The CTC said the court set aside the judgement of the lower Tribunal. All these contradictions had suddenly energized the governor and his co-travelers to rekindle their hope in a case they had already hopelessly lost. Their supporters, spurred by the deception of their leaders, thought the Court of Appeal had changed it’s mind on the affirmation of the Tribunal judgement that said Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna of the APC was the winner of the Kano governorship election. What a wrong assumption.

I’m not a lawyer, but my layman commonsense told me that human error was at play. Even the two quoted paragraphs above showed that the writer of the judgement only inadvertently interchangeably used the words ‘appellant’ and ‘respondent’. But, the lawyers, (especially the non-partisan ones) have said that the court has a provision to take care of such errors, which they call the ‘Slip Rule’.

This rule, according to them, provides that where such ‘accidental slips’ or clerical mistakes occur, the court can correct same when discovered. Other lawyers still said a judgement cannot be read only in part. Since the whole judgement from it’s beginning to the end was not in favor of Gov. Yusuf, it is illogical to assume that the accidental slips part will turn the judgement in his favor. That controversial part, a paragraph or two cannot supersede the preceding over 30 pages of arguments, logics, conclusions and firm holdings of the court.

I have also read somewhere that the remaining two Justices on the panel of three, all concluded that Gov. Yusuf was not validly elected and that APC was the winner of the election. The controversial part of the CTC was ‘inconsistent’ with the obvious intention of the court.

But my friends at the NNPP, who believe they have found a soft point they can use to galvanize their supporters and keep their hopes alive, mobilized a negligible few of these supporters, into an abortive attempt to disrupt the peace of Kano city this afternoon. Thank God, the protest was dead on arrival.

The Appeal Court has since cleared the air with regards the error. In his response, the Chief Registrar of the Court of Appeal, Umar Bangari, said that what happened in the judgement body was a typo error that did not in anyway invalidate or change the findings and conclusion of the court, assuring that the error would be rectified once parties in the matter file formal application to that effect. Bangari cited Order 23 Rule 4 of the Court of Appeal Handbook, which empowered the court to correct any clerical error once detected by the court or any of the parties in the matter, saying contrary to insinuations, the judgement of the court remained valid.

The simply meaning of the Registrars submission is that, as far as the intendment of the Court of Appeal is concerned in this case, Nasir Yusuf Gawuna remains the one the court has affirmed as the Kano State governor, in consistency with the judgement of the lower Governorship Election Petition Tribunal.

I learnt Abba Yusuf had lastly rushed to appeal. Had he and his travelers of the NNPP relied on delusion, by refusing to proceed to the Supreme Court on appeal, they would have woken up to the shock of their lives after the appeal period had elapsed. They would have seen how making a monstrous mischief out of a minor mistake would have taught them a good political lesson.