Tribunal affirms Alia’s victory as Benue gov, PDP plans appeal

The Peoples Democratic Party said on Saturday that it would appeal the judgment of the Benue State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal which upheld the victory of Governor Hyacinth Alia of the All Progressives Congress in the March 18 governorship election.

Delivering the judgment in Makurdi on Saturday, the chairman of the panel, Justice Ibrahim Karaye, held that the tribunal lacked jurisdiction to entertain pre-election issues raised by the petitioners, Titus Uba, and his party, Peoples Democratic Party.

Uba and the PDP had dragged the respondents, the Independent National Electoral Commission, Alia, the deputy governor, Dr Sam Ode, and the APC before the tribunal challenging INEC’s declaration that APC won the election.

The petitioners argued that the 2nd and 3rd respondents, Alia and Ode, were at the time of contesting the election not qualified to contest. They argued that the 4th respondent, the APC, did not follow the provisions of the law in the nomination of the governorship and deputy governorship candidates.

They also alleged that the 3rd respondent had presented a forged certificate to the 1st respondent, INEC and should therefore be disqualified.

But the respondents in their counter-argument urged the tribunal to dismiss the suit in its entirety as they described it as an abuse of court processes. Karaye who read the unanimous judgment granted the prayers of the respondents, affirming that only the Federal High Court had the exclusive jurisdiction to entertain issues bordering on pre-election matters.

The panel chairman explained that the petitioners’ case was also an abuse of court processes because the same case was filed by the petitioners before the Federal High Court Abuja Division and its judgment was not challenged by the petitioners.

He said the petitioners lacked locus standi to challenge the nomination of the 2nd and 3rd respondents by the 4th respondent since they were not members of the 4th respondent.

Karaye further said that the petitioners failed to prove their allegations of forgery against the 3rd respondent before the tribunal, adding that the 2nd and 3rd respondents were qualified to contest the election. He therefore dismissed the case.

Meanwhile, the governor in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Kula Tersoo, said the court had shown once again that it remained the last hope of the common man and that no might was powerful enough to thwart the supreme will of the people or claim power through the back door.

The statement added, “His Excellency appreciates and recognises the fact that his victory is that of the people to whom sovereignty and power truly belong. Governor Alia rededicates himself to the service of the people and the strengthening of democratic values across the state.”

He asked all and sundry, including members of the opposition parties, to join him in developing the state.

But the state chapter of the PDP has rejected the judgment. A statement by the party’s publicity secretary in the state, Bemgba Iortyom, said after a review of the judgment by its team of lawyers, the party believed it did not meet the requirements of substantive justice and was not in alignment with extant electoral laws, guidelines and regulations.

The statement added, “The party has accordingly directed its lawyers to appeal the judgment at the Court of Appeal, Abuja within the timeframe specified by law.

“Our great party urges its teeming supporters across the state to be calm and of good cheer in the faith that though the walk to justice may be long, the goal of reclaiming the governorship mandate will surely be achieved in the end.”

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