Appeal Court Affirms Benue Gov’s Victory

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The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja, on Monday affirmed the election of Hyacinth Alia as governor of Benue State.

The candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the March 18 governorship election, Titus Uba had approached the appellate court to set aside the judgment of the tribunal which upheld Alia’s election.

At the tribunal,  Uba among other things alleged that Alia’s deputy, Samuel Ode, presented a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission contrary to Section 182(1)(j) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).

He also claimed that Alia’s name was submitted less than 180 days before the election date, and Ode was also not submitted to INEC after the party conducted a further re-run primary election.

A three-member panel of the tribunal, headed by Justice Ibrahim Karaye, dismissed the petition on the ground that it was a pre-election matter and was statute-barred.

Ruling on the appeal on Monday,  the appeal court’s three-member panel led by Justice Onyekachi Aja Otisi held that the Uba failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt the allegations of forgery against Ode.

She said, “The appellant failed to prove the allegation of forgery beyond reasonable doubt. No other form of EC9 was presented.  To prove forgery, two documents must be produced;  the original and the forged document. The appellant failed to prove an element of forgery by not making available the documents. ”

Citing section 29(5) of the Electoral Act,  she held that the high court and not the tribunal have the jurisdiction to hear the matter.

She added that the appellant lacked the locus standi to challenge the qualification of the deputy governor since he was not part of the party’s primary.

She also held that the rerun primary election was conducted in obedience to a court order,  adding that the timeframe proscribed for the submission of name by the Electoral Act will collapse.

“There is a difference between an election conducted based on court order and that of the electoral act.  The timeline by the act will collapse where there is a court order”, she added.

“The appeal hereby fails. Parties shall bear their cost,” she held.

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