The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja, on Sunday, nullified the election of Governor Caleb Mutfwang of Plateau State.
The appellate court, in a unanimous decision by a three-member panel of Justices, held that Mutfwang was not validly nominated and sponsored by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to participate in the gubernatorial contest that held on March 18.
It held that all the votes that were credited to him and the PDP after the election amounted to wasted votes.
Consequently, the appellate court panel, led by Justice Elfrieda Williams-Dawodu, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to withdraw the Certificate of Return that it earlier issued to Mutfwang of the PDP as winner of the governorship poll.
It ordered that the candidate that got the second majority lawful votes at the election, should be sworn in as governor of the state.
The judgement followed an appeal that was lodged against governor Muftwang’s election by the governorship candidate of the All Progressive Congress, APC, in the state, Mr. Nentawe Goshwe.
INEC had declared that Mutfwang of the PDP won the gubernatorial contest with a total of 525,299 votes, ahead of the APC candidate, Goshwe, who polled 481,370 votes.
Dissatisfied with the outcome of the election, Goshwe, went before the Plateau State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal to challenge it.
He, among other things, contended that the PDP lacked a political structure in the states and was therefore incapable of validly nominating or sponsoring any candidate for the governorship poll.
Besides, he argued that the election of Mutfwang was not conducted in compliance with the Electoral Act, insisting that he did not win the majority of lawful votes cast during the election.
Meanwhile, a three-member panel of the tribunal headed by Justuce R. Irele-Ifijeh, in a unanimous decision, dismissed Goshwe’s petition as lacking in merit.
Not happy with the judgement of the tribunal, Goshwe brought the case before the appellate court, maintaining his ground that the PDP candidate, governor Muftwang, lacked the platform and legal qualification to contest the election.
He further alleged that the election was marred by over-voting and non-compliance with key provisions of the the 2022 Electoral Act.
While adopting his final brief of argument, Goshwe, through his team of lawyers led by Prof. Fakunle Olagoke, SAN, told the court that Mutfwang was not qualified to contest the election by virtue of a lack of valid sponsorship by a political party, contrary to section 177 (C) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
However, the governor, through his counsel, Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN, urged the court to dismiss the appeal and uphold the earlier verdict of the tribunal.
Agabi, SAN, argued that the issue of nomination and sponsorship of a candidate for an election was purely an internal affair of a political party which no court had the jurisdiction to wad into.
More so, he contended that the Appellant lacked the locus standi to query a nomination and sponsorship of the candidate of another political party.
Likewise, the counsel for the PDP, Mr. Emeka Etiaba, SAN, urged the court to strike out grounds 1 and 8 of the Appellant’s grounds of appeal, saying they lacked competence.
Etiaba, SAN, argued that governor Mutfwang emerged as gubernatorial flag-bearer of the PDP, through a validly conducted primary election he said was duly monitored by INEC.
Delivering its judgement in the matter on Sunday, the appellate court upheld the appeal and nullified the election of governor Mutfwang.
Other Justices on the panel were; Muhammed Mustapha and Okon Abang.
It will be recalled that the same panel of the appellate court had on November 7, also sacked a Senator and three members of the House of Representatives in the state that won their respective elections on the platform of the PDP.
The panel based its decision on failure of the PDP to fully comply with a court order that was made in 2022, which it said directed the party to conduct congress in the 17 Local Government Areas in the state.
It held that an evidence the PDP produced to prove that it complied with the order, showed that 12 LGAs were excluded in a purported congress it held to select its candidates for the 2023 general elections.
The appellate court, therefore, held that though the lawmakers won their respective seats during the National Assembly election that held on February 25, all the scores that were credited them, amounted to wasted votes as they were not valid candidates.