ABUJA – On Thursday, the Peoples Democratic Party’s Agbu Kefas was upheld by the Supreme Court as the legitimate victor of the Taraba State gubernatorial election that took place on March 18, 2023.
The New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP) and Prof. Sani Yahaya, the party’s candidate for governor of the state, filed an appeal, which the supreme court dismissed as incompetent in its lead judgement, delivered by Justice Mohammed Garba.
The apex court, in a unanimous decision by a five-member panel, held that the NNPP and its candidate filed an incomplete record of appeal.
The Appellants had approached the Supreme Court, praying it to set aside the judgement of the Court of Appeal in Abuja which affirmed Kefas’ election victory.
The appellate court had in the judgement it delivered on November 28, 2023, dismissed the appeal by the NNPP and its candidate as lacking in merit.
The court held that it found no reason to vacate the verdict of the Taraba State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, which had on September 30, 2023, declared Kefas of the PDP as the bonafide winner of the gubernatorial poll.
The appellate court faulted the tribunal for not striking out the petition outrightly, noting that it was legally incompetent.
According to the appellate court, whereas the petitioners, in one breath, sought the nullification of the governorship poll on the premise that it was invalid because of non-compliance with provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, they also turned around and prayed to be declared winner of the same election.
It held that the petitioners sought both prayers, together, as main reliefs, instead of as alternative reliefs.
The appellate court held that reliefs the petitioners sought from the tribunal were “patently incongruous”, saying there was no legal or factual pedestal for a litigant to make inconsistent prayers at the same time.
More so, the court held that even if one of the prayers came as an alternative relief, the petitioners ought to have anchored it on separate facts.
It held that the “legal misadventure of the petitioners” was based on their “misapprehension of section 136 of the Electoral Act 2022.”
It held that the tribunal ought to have upheld a preliminary objection that was filed before it by Governor Kefas and struck out the petition for being incompetent.
Consequently, it nullified a portion of the judgement of the tribunal that dismissed Governor Kefas’ preliminary objection and accordingly struck out the petition for want of competence.
However, dissatisfied with the judgement, the NNPP and its candidate approached the Supreme Court, insisting that they were denied justice.
The apex court said it would communicate its judgment date to all the parties.
It will be recalled that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had on March 21, 2023, declared PDP’s Kefas, a retired Nigerian Army Lieutenant Colonel, as the winner of the governorship contest.
INEC announced that Kefas polled a total of 302,614 votes to defeat his closest rival, Prof. Yahaya of the NNPP who scored 202,277 votes.
Not happy with the outcome of the election, the NNPP and its candidate went before the tribunal, alleging that the poll was not validly conducted.
They equally alleged that Kefas was not duly elected by a majority of lawful votes cast at the election.
The petitioners, who insisted that they had fulfilled all constitutional requirements, prayed to be declared the contest winners while requesting the withdrawal of the Certificate of Return that INEC had awarded to Governor Kefas.
The three-person panel headed by Justice J.G. A. Sunmonu dismissed their petition.
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