January 17, 2024

Taraba guber: Supreme Court reserves judgement on NNPP’s appeal

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By Ikechukwu Nnochiri

ABUJA – The Supreme Court has reserved its judgement on an appeal the New Nigerian Peoples Party, NNPP, and its candidate in Taraba State, Prof. Sani Yahaya, filed to nullify the election of Governor Agbu Kefas of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

A five-member panel of the apex court, led by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, okayed the matter for judgment on Wednesday after all the parties adopted their briefs of argument.

The appellants are praying to the Supreme Court to set aside the judgement of the Court of Appeal in Abuja, which affirmed Kefas as the winner of the governorship election that was held in the state on March 18, 2023.

The appellate court, in the judgement it delivered on November 28, 2023, dismissed the appeal by the NNPP and its candidate as lacking in merit.

The court held that it found no reason to vacate the verdict of the Taraba State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, which had on September 30, 2023, declared Kefas of the PDP as the bona fide winner of the gubernatorial poll.

The appellate court faulted the tribunal for not striking out the petition outrightly, noting that it was legally incompetent.

According to the appellate court, whereas the petitioners, in one breath, sought the nullification of the governorship poll on the premise that it was invalid by reason of non-compliance with provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, they also turned around and prayed to be declared winners of the same election.

It held that the petitioners sought both prayers together as main reliefs instead of as alternative reliefs.

The appellate court held that the reliefs the petitioners sought from the tribunal were “patently incongruous,” saying there was no legal or factual pedestal for a litigant to make inconsistent prayers at the same time.

More so, the court held that even if one of the prayers came as an alternative relief, the petitioners ought to have anchored it on separate facts.

It held that the “legal misadventure of the petitioners” was based on their “misapprehension of Section 136 of the Electoral Act 2022.”

It held that the tribunal ought to have upheld a preliminary objection that was filed before it by Governor Kefas and struck out the petition for being incompetent.

Consequently, it nullified a portion of the judgement of the tribunal that dismissed Governor Kefas’ preliminary objection and accordingly struck out the petition for lack of competence.

However, dissatisfied with the judgement, the NNPP and its candidate approached the Supreme Court, insisting that they were denied justice.

The apex court said it would communicate its judgement date to all the parties.

It will be recalled that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on March 21, 2023, declared PDP’s Kefas, a retired Nigerian Army Lieutenant Colonel, as the winner of the governorship contest.

INEC announced that Kefas polled a total of 302,614 votes to defeat his closest rival, Prof. Yahaya of the NNPP, who scored 202,277 votes.

Not happy with the outcome of the election, the NNPP and its candidate went before the tribunal, alleging that the poll was not validly conducted.

They equally alleged that Kefas was not duly elected by the majority of lawful votes cast at the election.

While seeking the withdrawal of the Certificate of Return that was issued to Governor Kefas by INEC, the petitioners prayed to be declared winners of the contest, insisting that they satisfied all the constitutional requirements.

Their petition was dismissed by the Justice J.G. A. Sunmonu-led three-man tribunal.