In a significant ruling on Monday, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the victory of Hyacinth Iormem Alia, the APC candidate, dismissing the appeal brought by the PDP and its candidate, Titus Tyoapine Uba, regarding the 18th March Governorship poll in Benue State.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Alia and his Deputy, Sam Ode, as the winners of the election on March 21. They secured a total of 473,933 votes, surpassing their closest rivals, Uba and Ngbede of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who received 223,913 votes.
Expressing dissatisfaction with the declared results, Uba and the PDP, represented by their lead counsel, Efut Okon SAN, approached the tribunal (EPT/BN/GOV/01/2023) to seek certain reliefs concerning the qualifications of the Governor and Deputy-Governor. INEC, Alia, Sam Ode, and the APC were listed as the first, second, third, and fourth respondents, respectively.
Uba & PDP’s petition are anchored on the following grounds:
(1) That the 2nd Respondent and 3rd Respondent (Deputy-Gov, Sam Ode) were at the time of the election, not qualified to contest the election as their sponsorship was invalid having been done 44 days to the date of the election, which is less than the mandatory period of 180 days required by law for political parties to submit the names of their candidates.
(2) That the 3rd Respondent (Sam Ode) obtained Form EC-9 (Affidavit in support of Personal Particulars) from INEC, filled, signed and submitted the Form to INEC falsely certifying that the said INEC Form EC-9 was sworn to before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
The 1st-3rd respondents through their Counsels challenged the competency of the petition. They averred that these issues been pre-election & intra-party, it is wholly domiciled outside the jurisdiction of the tribunal.
The Justice Ibrahim Musa Karaye-led tribunal on 23/09/2023, held that Issues of nomination, sponsorship and disqualification are issues to be determined by the Federal High Court and not the tribunal.
Beyond that, the tribunal berated the petitioners for engaging in an abuse of Court process having raised similar issues at the Federal High Court last year. In the suit: PDP & Uba v. INEC, APC, Alia, Vembe & Ode, the Petitioners failed at the Federal High Court and later at the Appeal Court in February this year.
The Tribunal averred that it lacked jurisdiction to entertain the petition and held that Alia and Ode were qualified to contest.
Not happy with the outcome, the PDP & Uba approached the penultimate Court in these matters.
Leading the panel, Justice Onyekachi Aja Otisi JCA on 20/11/2023, concurred with the judgement of the lower Court and held that the petitioners did not prove the forgery claim against Sam Ode (Benue Deputy Governor) beyond any reasonable doubts.
Dissatisfied, the PDP/Uba’s lawyer, Sebastian Hon SAN, told the Justice Inyang Okoro-led 5-man panel that the Deputy Governor, Ode’s name was not submitted to INEC in time.
He strongly submitted that his case was not a pre-election matter,
“The All Progressives Congress candidate was not duly sponsored, ” Hon contended on Monday.
“This is not the kind of matter that should come to court from a senior counsel” Justice Inyang Okoro replied to the lawyer.
“If you are a friend of this court, you will just withdraw this appeal. We are unanimous in this matter. Just withdraw this matter,” Justice Okoro advised the lawyer.
“My lord, I apply to withdraw the appeal,” Hon responded.
“This appeal, having been withdrawn, is hereby dismissed” Justice Okoro said.