By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, ABUJA
The Supreme Court, on Wednesday, nullified the governorship primary election the All Progressives Congress, APC, conducted in Taraba State, which produced Senator Emmanuel Bwacha as its gubernatorial flag-bearer.
In a unanimous decision, a five-member panel of Justices of the apex court vacated the judgement of the Yola Division of the Court of Appeal, which affirmed Bwacha’s nomination.
Justice Adamu Jauro who read the lead judgement of the Supreme Court, voided the outcome of the primary election after he allowed an appeal that was lodged by an aggrieved APC governorship aspirant, Mr. David Kente.
According to the apex court, there was no evidence to show that the said primary election was validly conducted in line with provisions of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, and the Electoral Act, 2022.
It held that the appellate court was wrong when it made an order setting aside the judgement of the Federal High Court in Jalingo, which upheld the suit Kente filed to challenge the nomination of Bwacha as candidate of the party for the forthcoming governorship election in the state.
It will be recalled that the high court had in its judgement that was delivered by Justice Simon Amobeda on September 20, 2022, invalidated the primary election that produced Bwacha, even as it ordered the APC to within 14 days, conduct a fresh poll.
The trial court equally restrained Bwacha from parading himself as a candidate for the governorship contest, even as it barred the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, from recognising his candidacy.
Specifically, Kante, told the court that as an aspirant for the APC governorship ticket, he paid the sum of N50million to obtain the nomination form of the party.
He told the court that following the payment and fulfilment of all the pre-conditions, he was screened alongside other aspirants.
The plaintiff averred that the national leadership of the party subsequently approved the conduct of indirect primary election in all the states of the federation, except in Abia, Osun and Taraba states.
He, however, decried that two days to the scheduled election, he heard that leaders of the party had changed the plan and decided to select a candidate through direct primary.
He said the decision led to a fracas that made the police to invite all the aspirants to the state capital for a meeting.
The plaintiff said he was surprised, when on May 27, 2022, Chairman of the party in the state, announced that election was held with Bwacha emerging as the party’s flag-bearer.
Kante told the court that neither himself nor the other aspirants participated in the said primary election, alleging that results were merely allocated to Bwacha, in contravention of both the Electoral Act, as well as the APC Constitution and election guidelines.
However, in its defence, the APC insisted that the primary election was duly conducted, a claim that was confirmed by INEC which told the court that it monitored the said election.
Meanwhile, the apex court, in its judgement on Wednesday, noted that all the entries in the purported result sheet from the primary election, was made with the same handwriting.
It held that there was no evidence to prove that the decision of the party to hold direct primary election was conveyed to all the aspirants before May 26, 2022
Besides, it agreed with the trial court that the contestants were not afforded ample time to campaign in all the wards, in view of the party’s sudden decision to change the mode of the primary election.
Consequently, it resolved the issues in favour of the appellant and allowed the appeal.
“In conclusion, we hold that there was no valid gubernatorial primary election conducted by the APC in Taraba state.
“The judgement of the court below is hereby set aside. Earlier decision of the trial court is affirmed. This appeal is allowed”, the Supreme Court held.
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