The election of Plateau State Governor Caleb Mutfwang was declared void by the Court of Appeal, which met in Abuja on Sunday.
The Peoples Democratic Party, or PDP, did not legitimately nominate or support Mutfwang to run for governor on March 18, according to the appeal court’s unanimous ruling of three justices on the panel.
According to the ruling, all of the votes that were given to him and the PDP following the election were considered wasted votes.
As a result, the Independent National Electoral Commission, or INEC, was directed by the appellate court panel, which was presided over by Justice Elfrieda Williams-Dawodu, to revoke the Certificate of Return that Mutfwang of the PDP had previously been given as the victor of the gubernatorial election.
It ordered that the candidate that got the second majority lawful votes at the election, should be sworn in as governor of the state.
The judgement followed an appeal that was lodged against governor Muftwang’s election by the governorship candidate of the All Progressive Congress, APC, in the state, Mr. Nentawe Goshwe.
With 525,299 votes, Mutfwang of the PDP defeated Goshwe of the APC, who received 481,370 votes, according to INEC’s declaration of the results of the governor’s race.
Goshwe challenged the election results in front of the Plateau State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal because he was unhappy with the results.
Among other things, he argued that the PDP could not legitimately nominate or sponsor any candidate for the gubernatorial election since it did not have a political apparatus in the states.
Besides, he argued that the election of Mutfwang was not conducted in compliance with the Electoral Act, insisting that he did not win the majority of lawful votes cast during the election.
Meanwhile, a three-member panel of the tribunal headed by Justuce R. Irele-Ifijeh, in a unanimous decision, dismissed Goshwe’s petition as lacking in merit.
Not happy with the judgement of the tribunal, Goshwe brought the case before the appellate court, maintaining his ground that the PDP candidate, governor Muftwang, lacked the platform and legal qualification to contest the election.
He further alleged that the election was marred by over-voting and non-compliance with key provisions of the the 2022 Electoral Act.
While adopting his final brief of argument, Goshwe, through his team of lawyers led by Prof. Fakunle Olagoke, SAN, told the court that Mutfwang was not qualified to contest the election by virtue of a lack of valid sponsorship by a political party, contrary to section 177 (C) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
However, the governor, through his counsel, Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN, urged the court to dismiss the appeal and uphold the earlier verdict of the tribunal.
Agabi, SAN, argued that the issue of nomination and sponsorship of a candidate for an election was purely an internal affair of a political party which no court had the jurisdiction to wad into.
More so, he contended that the Appellant lacked the locus standi to query a nomination and sponsorship of the candidate of another political party.
Likewise, the counsel for the PDP, Mr. Emeka Etiaba, SAN, urged the court to strike out grounds 1 and 8 of the Appellant’s grounds of appeal, saying they lacked competence.
Etiaba, SAN, argued that governor Mutfwang emerged as gubernatorial flag-bearer of the PDP, through a validly conducted primary election he said was duly monitored by INEC.
Delivering its judgement in the matter on Sunday, the appellate court upheld the appeal and nullified the election of governor Mutfwang.
Other Justices on the panel were; Muhammed Mustapha and Okon Abang.
It will be recalled that the same panel of the appellate court had on November 7, also sacked a Senator and three members of the House of Representatives in the state that won their respective elections on the platform of the PDP.
The tribunal decided to make this ruling because the PDP had not complied fully with a 2022 court order directing the party to have congress in each of the state’s 17 Local Government Areas.
It decided that 12 LGAs were left out of a fictitious congress that the PDP organised to choose its candidates for the general elections in 2023, as evidenced by documents it presented to demonstrate that it complied with the order.
Because the MPs were invalid candidates, the appellate court concluded that even though they had won their seats in the National Assembly during the election on February 25, the votes they received were essentially squandered.