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Tribunal Verdict: Taraba On The Boil

Okerafor Athanatius in Jalingo reports on the brewing crisis in the state following the election petition tribunal verdict that quashed the election of Governor Dairus Ishaku in favour of APC’s Senator Aisha Alhassan


The mixed feelings that trailed the weekend annulment of the elections of Taraba State governor, Darius Ishaku, by the Governorship and Election Petition Tribunal, has taken a violent turn as supporters the rival All Progressives Congress, APC, whose governorship candidate Aisha Alhassan was declared winner of the April poll and those of the Peoples Democratic Party, yesterday clashed in Wakari, one of the violent prone areas of the state. There were fears that the clash, which may take an ethnic colouration, may spread to Jalingo, the state capital even as the police and army take positions in strategic locations in both towns.

According to investigation by The UNION, the source of the violence is traceable to the jubilation by APC supporters to the discomfort of their PDP protesters against the Tribunal ruling.

The clash has led to people fleeing their homes for fear of been molested or killed as rowdy youths of the town were said to have freely used any missile within reach, including guns to unleash mayhem.

Though the extent of the damage is yet to be known, there is considerable fear in both Jalingo and Wukari. The police and soldiers have however restore some order for now.

Mr Joseph Kwaji, State Public Relations Officers of the Nigerian Police, Taraba Command confirmed the occurence to News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, adding that “ a detachment of police officers from the state command and other neighbouring divisions were promptly deployed to the town. He said law and order had been restored in the affected areas.”

The police command in the state had, therefore, warned that it would deal decisively with anyone who foment trouble in any part of the state. The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Joseph Kwaji, gave the warning in an interview with NAN in Jalingo.

The police imagemaker said the command had put in place adequate measures to maintain peace.

He added that the command had deployed its men to Wukari, Takum, Donga and Bali to ensure peace. The Taraba Police Command, has confirmed that normalcy had returned to Wukari town after the crisis sparked off by the verdict of Taraba Election Petitions Tribunal.

The tribunal, sitting in Abuja, on Saturday quashed the election of Gov. Darius Ishaku of the PDP and declared Sen. Aisha Alhassan of the APC winner of the poll.

Mr Kwaji, told the (NAN) on Sunday in Jalingo that the crisis broke out in the early hours of Sunday.

He said that though the police had not concluded their investigations, the crisis might not be unconnected with the ruling of the tribunal.

“Yes there was crisis in Wukari, but it is under control now. Security men have been deployed to the area and normalcy has returned to the town.

“Investigation is ongoing but it is likely that the crisis is in connection with the verdict of the governorship election petition tribunal of Saturday,” he said.

The command’s image maker, who said that figures of casualty had not been ascertained by the police, warned the people not to take the laws into their hands.

He said that the state Commissioner of Police, Mr Shaba Alkali had moved to the area to ensure that peace was restored.

Alhaji Tanimu Danlele, the former Vice- Chairman of Wukari Local Government Council, told NAN that at least eight people lost their lives and more than 30 others were injured in the crisis. He thanked security agents for ensuring quick return of normalcy to the area and urged them to be vigilant to forestall re-occurrence.

Though Governor Ishaku has vowed to appeal the tribunal verdict, speaking at a news conference in Jalingo on Saturday, the ruling has continued to attract mixed reaction from across the political divide in the country.

While Mrs. Alhassan’s supporters in Unguwangadi, Magami, Kasuwan-Yelwa, Sabon-Gari and Nyamu Sala areas are celebrating on the streets just as many others are protesting and criticizing the verdict.

Ahmed Umar, a resident of Jalingo, told the News Agency of Nigeria that the verdict was victory for democracy.

Also, a former senator representing Taraba Central, Abubakar Tutare, said the ruling had given confidence to the common man about the judicial system.

The PDP Public Relations Officer in the state, Napoleon Adamu, told journalists that people in the state should accept the verdict and cooperate with the winner.

However, Hariman Bovoa, the National President of Mambilla Youth Progressive Association, criticised the verdict, saying it was biased.

Also, Gibeon Kataps, former Secretary to the Taraba Government, said Mr. Ishaku remained the governor, until the determination of the case at the Court of Appeal.

In invalidating the election of Governor Dairus, the tribunal held that Mr. Ishaku was not validly nominated as candidate of the PDP and therefore did not qualify, from start, to contest the governorship election.

It held that “the governorship primaries purportedly conducted by the PDP in the state was done in violation of section 78 (b) (1)(2) of the Electoral Act, which guides parties nomination to the position of governorship candidate.

It held that contrary to the provision of the section, PDP conducted the purported primaries at its national secretariat, Wadata Plaza, in Abuja with no clear delegation from the local government areas in the state.

The tribunal sustained the testimonies of the head of election monitoring of Independent National Electoral Commission that the commission was not aware of any primaries conducted by the party in line with the provision of the electoral act which produced Ishaku as the party’s flagbearer.

“Section 78 (b) (1) (2) of the Electoral Act states: In the case of nomination to the position of Governorship candidate, a political party shall where they intend to sponsor candidates:

“(i) hold special congress in each of the Local Government Areas of the States with delegates voting for each of the aspirants at the congress to be held in designated centres on specified dates.

“(ii) the aspirant with the highest number of vote at the end of the voting shall be declared the winner of the primaries of the party and aspirant’s name shall be forwarded to the commission as the candidate of the party, for the particular state.

The tribunal said the tribunal rejected the defence by the PDP that the primaries were shifted to Abuja because of security challenges in the state.

“It sustained the evidence of the INEC official that there was no primaries election in the state and the emergence of Mr. Ishaku through the purported election in Abuja was after the statutory stipulated time for party primaries had elapsed.

“It held that since Mr. Ishaku was not duly sponsored by the PDP, the party had no candidate in the governorship election in the eyes of the law.

The tribunal therefore voided the votes of the PDP and Mr. Ishaku in the election saying “it is a waste’’ and declared the APC and its candidate, who came second, as the valid winner of the April 11 election.

Reacting to the judgment, counsel to APC, Abiodun Owonikoko, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said the judgment was a landmark being the first time the election of a governor would be nullified on the doctrine of wasted votes.

He said with the judgment, the era of impunity in party primaries was gone and it would be a lesson not only for PDP but all political parties.

On whether Mr. Ishaku will vacate the seat immediately, Mr. Owonikoko said the judgment “is not the end of the road, there is opportunity for all the parties to explore whatever the grievance they have’’.

Mr. Owonikoko added that if the governor or the party did not appeal within 21 days, Ms. Alhassan will be swornin as governor.

The counsel to the PDP was not available to comment on the verdict of the Tribunal as they all rushed out of the venue after the judgment.

For Governor, Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, the tribunal judgement sacking the Taraba State Governor, Darius Ishaku, as “a ridiculous political judgement that can never stand before men of good conscience and God.

Mr. Fayose, who maintained that there was a conspiracy by the All Progressives Congress , APC-led federal government and a section of the judiciary against the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, called on the Supreme Court to save the country from impending anarchy.

In a statement issued by his spokesperson Lere Olayinka, the governor wondered how a tribunal could make conduct of the PDP primary that produced Governor Ishaku in Abuja an issue when the tribunal itself sat in Abuja.

He said; “How does the emergence of party candidate, which is the clear internal business of the party and a pre-election matter, concern the APC and the Election Tribunal?

“Isn’t it funny that it is no longer about election rigging, but technicality of how PDP candidates emerged even when no one in the PDP went to court to challenge how Governor Ishaku emerged as the PDP governorship candidate?

“If insecurity could make Taraba State Tribunal sit in Abuja and not in Jalingo, how then can it be justified that the same tribunal that sat in Abuja nullified the governor’s election because the primary election that produced him too was held in Abuja?

“Is it not being manifested in this President Muhammadu Buhari led APC government that what is good for some people may not be good for others even though we operate the same constitution?

“To me and the teeming supporters of the PDP, this judgement is one that must not be allowed to stand. It is a clear miscarriage of justice and we will seek redress from the court of men and the court of God.”

While reiterating his commitment to speaking the truth in the overall interest of Nigerians, Governor Fayose said; “If everybody is persecuted and intimidated to submission, I will remain resolute in my resolved to always say the truth before men and God.”

Similarly, the Centre for Human Rights and Social Justice (CHRSJ) yesterday, took a swipe at the verdict of the tribunal, stating that it went beyond its jurisdiction by granting the unrequested prayers of the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Aisha Al hassan

The group stated that the outcome of the tribunal ruling has put the integrity of the judiciary in doubt as the last hope of common man.

In a statement signed by the group’s executive chairman yesterday, Comrade Adeniyi Alimi Sulaimoan, it said it would “inform all its members across the country to be prepared for a national peaceful street protest to save the hard earned nation’s democracy against undemocratic nature of the present administration so as to save the nation from impeding political crisis that might occur as a result of judicial collaboration with executive arm of government to subvert the will and wish of the people in an electoral democracy.”

Sulaiman said “this is another judicial recklessness of highest order” on the part of tribunal Judges so far, calling on the democrats in the country to join hands together to save the current democratic experiment from the hands of those who were set to manipulate the judiciary to satisfy their political desire.

He urged, the “National Judicial Council (NJC) to commence immediate investigation into the Saturday Judgment of the Taraba State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal and its Judges because the ruling has shown that something is fishing somewhere.”

The All Progressives Congress (APC) has said that the Presidency did not manipulate the judiciary in Saturday’s judgment of the Taraba Governorship Election Petition Tribunal.

This is contained in a statement issued by Alhaji Lai Mohammed, its National Publicity Secretary in Lagos on Sunday.

“President Muhammadu Buhari and his party, the APC are strong believers in the rule of law, as against the rule of impunity, hence will never manipulate the judiciary for whatever reason.’’ The APC blamed the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) loss at the election tribunal on impunity.

“From the judgment of the tribunal, it is clear that the impunity of the PDP cost it the election.

“Not only did the party breach Section 78 (b) (1) (2) of the Electoral Act concerning the organisation of party primaries, it was not even deemed to have participated in the April 11 governorship election in Taraba State in the eyes of the law.

“Apart from not complying with the Electoral Act, the election of the PDP candidate, Mr Darius Ishaku, in the purported primaries in Abuja was done after the stipulated time for party primaries had elapsed.

“According to the tribunal, it is thus clear that the election result in Taraba was not annulled for any other reason but the impunity and recklessness that permeated the life and times of the cadaverous PDP

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