*Upholds election of Sen Musa, CPC’s candidate
BY WOLE MOSADONI & PETER DURU
The Benue State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Makurdi yesterday dismissed the petition filed by the defeated Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, gubernatorial candidate at the last general election, Prof. Steve Ugbah, challenging the election of Governor Gabriel Suswam of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
The tribunal premised its decision on an earlier judgment of the Court of Appeal which dismissed the petition on the grounds that the petitioner had invoked pre-hearing without recourse to provisions of the 2010 Electoral Act, as amended.
However, the Niger State Election Petition Tribunal upheld the victory of senatorial candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, Senator Ibrahim Musa for the Niger North Senatorial district against Senator Nuhu Aliyu, thus putting to rest the ambition of Senator Aliyu to return to the Senate for the fourth term.
Similarly, the Tribunal also upheld the election of Hon. Abdullahi Idris Garba of the CPC as member representing Mariga, Kontagora, Wushishi and Mashegu Federal Constituency thereby truncating the ambition of Alhaji Sani Duba, who was earlier declared winner of the election.
In his ruling, chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Kingsley Udeh said, Senator Aliyu’s allegation lacked merit, as according to him, his allegations were criminal in nature Senator Aliyu had alleged that Senator Musa presented a forged tax clearance certificate in his form 001 to the Independent National Electoral Commission during his registration and awarded N100, 000 as costs against him.
For the House of Representatives case, the chairman of the three member Electoral committee also dismissed the claim of the petitioner that the declared winner, Abdullahi Idris Garba forged his credentials and documents presented to INEC in his 001 form.
Delivering judgment on the matter in Makurdi, Chairman of the Tribunal Justice Ladan Mumir, held that the tribunal was bound by the judgment of the Court of Appeal as anything to the contrary would amount to an exercise in futility.
Justice Mumir said: “In our view, it is clear by the judgment of the Court of Appeal that there was a fundamental procedural defect in the invocation of pre-hearing on June 29, 2011, by the petitioner.
‘’The Court of Appeal has held that the foundation upon which the pre-hearing conference was invoked was defective and therefore rendering the petition a nullity.’’
He further referred to provisions of Section 18 of the First Schedule of same Electoral Act in arriving at his decision, pointing out that any further attempt to proceed with the petition would “amount to the construction of a storey building on a muddy ground which is bound to collapse”.
According to the tribunal, even if the petitioner had filed a notice of appeal against the ruling of the Court of Appeal, it would not have justified the continuation of the proceedings at the tribunal since the tribunal was bound by the decision of the appellate court.
‘’The Judgment of the Court of Appeal is not subject to the interpretation of this tribunal. Our jurisdiction to continue to hear this petition has been taken away by the decision of the Court of Appeal.
‘’We hereby dismiss the petition in line with the decision of the Court of Appeal”, Justice Mumir said.
Addressing the tribunal after the judgment, Counsel to the petitioner, Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, commended the tribunal for its forthrightness in its decision but added “I can assure you that we will be back”.
Also, Counsel to Governor Gabriel Suswam, the PDP and INEC, Donald Denigwe, Solo Akuma and Jubrin Okutekpa respectively, lauded the decision of the tribunal, describing it as a sound judgment in the temple of justice.