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Court Of Appeal Upholds Election Of Gov. Ishaku Of Taraba

The Court of Appeal in Abuja yesterday declared that Gov. Darius Ishaku of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was validly elected in the April gubernatorial elections in Taraba.
The appellate court set aside the Nov. 7 judgment of the Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal for the state which had declared Sen. Aisha Alhassan of the All Progressives Congress (APC) winner of the election.
The court of appeal panel of five justices, presided over by Justice Abdul Aboki, held that the decision of the tribunal was a nullity.
Specifically, the appellate court said the tribunal erred in law in its decision that Ishaku was not validly nominated by his party and not qualified ab-initio to contest the April 11 governorship election.
“We have duly read the submissions made by parties to the appeal and found out that the tribunal erred in its decision.
“The Electoral Act and in fact the constitution have not given such power to the tribunal to annul the victory of the appellant on the ground of improper conduct of primaries by his party.
“The PDP has admitted to have sponsored the appellant in its deposition. Therefore, the argument of the APC and its candidate of non-qualification of the PDP candidate are baseless,’’ he said.
Aboki said that INEC and any aggrieved contestant in the primaries of the party were the ones that had the locus standi to challenge the conduct of the primaries.
“INEC is superintendent when it comes to issues of who is qualified to contest an election not the respondent.
“Respondents have no locus standi in this matter. They cannot challenge the primaries because none of them is a member of the PDP.”
The court further held that nomination of candidate for an election was a domestic affair of a political party and the court had no jurisdiction to interfere in it.
Aboki held that the appellant met all the statutory conditions to contest the election.
“By the provision of the Electoral Act, the appellant is a citizen of Nigeria; he has attained the mandatory age of 35 years and he is a bona-fide member of a registered political party – PDP.
“The appellant was sponsored by a registered political party and he has the minimum educational qualification of School Certificate or equivalent,’’ he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that four other cross-appeals filed by parties were ruled in favour of Ishaku.
In one of the cross appeals, APC contended that the PDP candidate did not score the mandatory 25 per cent in two-third of the 16 local government areas of the state.
Justice Aboki, however, dismissed the argument, holding that it was not supported by documentary evidence from the card reader used in the election.
He also held that the relief was an after thought because it was not contained in the processes filed before the tribunal.
“This appellate court will not allow any fresh matter to be introduced at this juncture. The pleading is hereby struck out for it is academic,’’ the justice said.
Speaking to newsmen after the session, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), counsel to Ishaku, expressed delight in the outcome of the appeal.
“We know right from time that injustice was done to our client by his removal by the tribunal,’’ he said.
On his part, Mr Mahmud Magaji (SAN), Counsel to Al-Hassan, said the decision would be further tested at the Supreme Court.
“We still hold that the governor was not qualified to contest that election,’’ he said. (NAN)

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