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Appeal Court upholds election of Taraba Governor

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Governor of Taraba State, Darius Ishaku of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) got his New Year’s gift on Thursday as the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja upheld his election.
The Taraba State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal had earlier sacked him and declared his opponent, Senator Aisha Alhassan of the All Progressives Congress (APC), governor in his place.
Ishaku thereafter headed to the Court of Appeal to validate his mandate.
In a unanimous judgment on Thursday, the Court of Appeal panel headed by Justice Abdul Aboky, held that the tribunal acted outside its jurisdiction when it invalidated Ishaku’s election on the premise that he was not validly nominated by the PDP.
The Court held that the issue of nomination of a candidate by a political party “is clearly a pre-election matter which no tribunal has the jurisdiction to entertain”.
It further noted that neither APC, nor its candidate, Senator Alhassan, had the locus-standi to query the outcome of the governorship primary election of the PDP.
“There is no dispute whatsoever in this case that the 1st and 2nd respondents have not said that the appellant is not a member of a political party. From the pleadings and facts, it is obvious that the appellant is a member of the PDP”.‎
The court held that under section 87(9) of the Electoral Act, only those that participated in the said PDP primary election has the right to challenge its outcome at the Federal High Court or State High Court.
“The right to complain is severely limited to participants in the primary election. Whether the primary election was done rightly or wrongly cannot be subject of an election petition.
“The most important question to be asked here is, was the appellant a member of a political party or sponsored by a party to participate at the election?
“All evidence before the tribunal pointed to the fact that the appellant was duly sponsored by the PDP and INEC duly received his nomination. INEC did not at any time query his eligibility to participate in the election.
“Both oral and documentary evidence before the tribunal clearly showed that the appellate was a member of the PDP and was validly sponsored.
“I hold that the 1st and 2nd respondents have no right to challenge the primary election at which the appellant emerged as none of them is a member of the PDP.
“Nomination of a candidate to participate in an election is the sole responsibility of a political party. Issue of nomination of candidate is within the domestic affair of a political party”, the court added.
The court further held that the tribunal “grossly misdirected itself”, when it nullified Ishaku’s election and went ahead to declare Alhassan winner.
“There is no basis for the finding of the lower tribunal‎”, Justice Aboky noted, saying the tribunal had no power whatsoever to declare a person that came second at an election as the winner.
It said the best the tribunal could have done under section 142 of the constitution was to order for a fresh poll.
“The judgement of the lower tribunal ‎is hereby set aside. We are of the view that the appellant’s appeal is meritorious and is hereby allowed.
“I hereby make the following consequential orders. The order of the tribunal made on November 7 is hereby set-aside. The election and return of the appellant in the April 11 election is hereby upheld.
“The Certificate of Return ‎issued to the appellant by the 4th respondent in this matter remains valid. I make no order as to cost.”