By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Abuja
The Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, on Thursday, upheld the election of Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State.
The appellate court, in a unanimous judgement by a five-man panel of Justices, dismissed a joint appeal the All Progressives Congress, APC, and its candidate, Emmanuel Jime, filed to challenge the outcome of the governorship election that held in the state on March 9.
In the lead judgement that was read by Justice Fred Oho, the court resolved four issues the Appellants raised before it, against them, even as it awarded a cost of N150, 000 against them.
The court held that the appeal lacked merit, stressing that the Appellants failed to prove why results the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, declared in favour of governor Ortom and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, should be nullified.
It, therefore, declined to set aside the verdict of the Benue State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal that affirmed Ortom as the valid winner of the gubernatorial contest.
The tribunal had in its judgement on October 7, dismissed a petition the APC and its candidate filed before it, wherein they alleged that the election was not only marred by irregularities but was also conducted in substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act.
Dissatisfied with the verdict, the Petitioners approached the appellate court to challenge it.
Arguing through their lawyer, Mr Yusuf Alli, SAN, Jime and the APC maintained that the election which brought Ortom as Governor for the second term did not comply with provisions of the law.
They contended that Smart Card Readers deployed by INEC were not used in some areas to conduct the election.
However, in their separate briefs of argument, Ortom’s lawyer, Sebastian Hon, SAN, that of INEC, Offiong Offiong, SAN, and Chief Chris Uche, SAN, of the PDP, urged the appeal panel to dismiss the appeal with substantial cost.
The Respondents argued that the Appellant failed to provide witnesses at the trial court to substantiate the claim that there were irregularities in the conduct of the poll.
They equally argued that the issue of Card Readers, which the Appellants relied on, had been settled in various judgements by both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
On the issue of non-compliance with the rules guiding the conduct of elections, the Respondents argued that mere guidelines or election manuals from INEC could not have nullified the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
They urged the court to dismiss the appeal that the appeal on the premise that the Appellant failed to cite any section of the Electoral Act or the 1999 constitution that was breached during the conduct of the Benue governorship election.