Bernice Mbugua @BerniceMuhindi
Wajir Governor Mohammed Abdi has lost his seat after the High Court on Friday declared his election null and void. Justice Alfred Mabeya, who was handling the election petition challenging Abdi’s win, ruled that the governor was not validly elected or cleared to run for the seat.
Mabeya said Abdi did not have the academic qualifications to vie for the seat and was, therefore, not legally cleared to vie for that position as he did not satisfy provisions of section 22 (2) of the Election Act. The judge said the governor failed to appear in court to dispel claims that he did not have a degree yet it was a good chance for him to clear the allegations.
“It is also doubtful that the First Respondent would have obtained a Master’s degree from Kampala University within six months and a letter from the Commission of University Education (CUE) showing that the university was recognised by CUE was not enough,” he said.
Mabeya further said there were alterations in some forms yet there was no counter signing during the August 8 election in Wajir governor’s race as required by the law. According to the Judge, many forms were not genuine as they were either photocopies with no water marks or print outs and IEBC did not explain where the originals were.
He also faulted IEBC Returning Officer for opening ballot boxes from some polling stations after they had been sealed, adding that many voters were assisted to vote, thereby, compromising the integrity of the process.
Mabeya ruled that the principles of the secrecy of the ballot were breached and that the record of the election through the prescribed Forms 37A, 37B and 37C was neither accountable nor credible. The judge accused IEBC of employing officials who were incompetent and whose conduct made the elections unaccountable and unverifiable.
“In totality the court hereby finds that the petitioners have succeeded in convincing the court they the election was not conducted in a free and fair manner,” he ruled. The Judge ordered a by election to be held in accordance with the electoral laws and the Constitution, adding that Abdi and IEBC should pay Sh2 million to the petitioners as cost of the suit.
Former Wajir Governor Ahmed Abdullahi filed the election petition accusing Abdi of not meeting the qualifications required to vie for the seat. Abdullahi had alleged that Abdi falsified his academic documents and he concealed, falsified or altered the documents when he filed the self-declaration forms at the EACC. He also disputed the election outcome, saying the tallying of votes from the polling stations was incorrect and contained serious errors.