The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja has overturned the tribunal decision and affirmed Nentawe Goshwe Yilwatda of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as duly elected Governor of Plateau State.
On March 20, INEC declared PDP’s Caleb Mutfwang winner with 525299 votes against his closest challenger the Candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Nentawe who scored 481370 votes.
Dissatisfied with the results as declared by the umpire, the APC and Nentawe approached the tribunal seeking redress. INEC, Muftwang and the PDP were listed as the first, second and third defendants, respectively.
The Petitioners distilled six grounds praying the tribunal to affirm the Petitioners as winners. One of such grounds is that the PDP had no valid structure having contravened the Justice S P Gang’s order in conducting a valid Congress.
On 22nd September, the Plateau State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal sitting at the High Court Complex in Jos dismissed the petition for lacking in merit.
Nentawe & APC approached the penultimate Court, praying the learned Justices upturn the verdict of the tribunal.
The Appeal Court in upholding the appeal, held that the PDP violated a Court order and had no structure.
The panel held that the appeal brought by Nentawe Goshwe of the All Progressives Congress (APC) succeeds as the issue of qualification was both a pre and post election matter under Section 177(c) of the Nigerian Constution, 1999 and Section 80 and 82 of the Electoral Act, 2022.
The panel agreed with the appellant (Goshwe) that the failure of the PDP to comply with the order of the Plateau State High Court in Jos in suit no: PLD/J304/2020 between Bitrus B. Kaze & 11 ors vs the Peoples Democratic Party & 24 ors directing it to conduct valid ward, Local Government’s and State Congresses before nominating its candidates for the various elective posts and the Court of Appeal order in CA/J1/93/2021 was a breach of the law.
“I agree with learned Chair (Elfreda) that Failure of tribunal to admit evidence tendered by the Appellant amounts to miscarriage of justice. By way of exhibit G1, PDP will always be on its way to self destruction, Except PDP complies with the Court Order, it loses the right to contest in any election. PDP’s votes are wasted.
“Sentiments and sympathy have no place in law. It is only the law and the law only. My lord’s, I have my doubts that the PDP conducted fresh congresses that involved the 17 LGAs of Plateau State.
“The duty of the court is not to make litigants happy but to do justice.” – Justice Okon Abang
Justice Abang held that the lack of sponsorship is certainly a post-election matter. The Tribunal was in error when it said the Appellants lacked the right to contest the conduct of the election.
The Tribunal was hard on the appellant when it likened the appellant to one crying more than the bereaved. If the appellant finds his neighbour with a goat that doesn’t belong to him, there is nothing wrong if he complains or raises alarm.
There was no party called PDP at the time of the election and could not have sponsored a candidate in the elections.
The issue in my view is not the right of PDP to contest the election but its competence to do so.”
“PDP was nowhere to be found in Plateau State having failed to comply with exhibit G1 as at the time of the election. A political party with no structure cannot be qualified to sponsor a candidate for election. The Tribunal was in grave error when it held that the Petitioner had no right to contest the election” – Justice Abang held.
The panel further held that the PDP was not qualified to present a Candidate in the election and therefore upheld the Appeal.
Justice Elfreda Oluwayemisi Williams-Dawodu JCA who chaired the panel ordered INEC to withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to Mutfwang and award same to Nentawe as duly elected.