The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on Monday affirmed the judgment of the Taraba State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, which upheld the re-election of Governor Darius Ishaku of the Peoples Democratic Party in the March 9, 2019 governorship poll in the state.
A three-man panel of the tribunal led by Justice M.O. Adewara had in a unanimous judgment of September 20, 2019, dismissed the petition by the APC and it’s candidate, Abubakar Danladi on the grounds that the petitioners failed to prove their claims that the election was marred by irregularities and substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act
In affirming the judgment of the tribunal, the five-man panel of the Court of Appeal led by Justice C.N.Uwa held that the appellant had no candidate in the March 9, 2019 governorship election in Taraba state, by virtue of the disqualification of it’s candidate, Abubakar Danladi by the Jalingo Division of the Federal High Court on March 6, 2019.
Before the judgment, the appellant court had dismissed the preliminary objections filed by the three respondents against the appeal for lacking in merit.
But delivering judgment on the main appeal, the appellate court held that APC has no candidate in the March 9 governorship election given the judgment of the Federal High Court sitting in Jalingo, Taraba State, which disqualified it’s candidate, Abubakar Sani Danladi and equally restrained his political party, the APC from fielding him as a governorship candidate.
The court said for failing to overturn the order of the Federal High Court that disqualified him at Court of Appeal and Supreme Court respectively, Danlandi himself withdrew his participation at the tribunal.
“The first petitioner having withdrawn from the tribunal by virtue of his disqualification, the three reliefs he sought were no longer grantable as they stand abandoned by his withdrawal.”
The court further held that “the judgment of the Federal High Court remained binding on all parties having not been set aside by the Court of Appeal.
“The judgment of the Federal High Court having not been upturned took effect on March 6, 2019. It is errenous to hold that the disqualification took effect in July.
On the issue of stay of execution of the order of the Federal High Court by the Court of Appeal, the court held that the stay did not overruled the judgment of the Federal High Court and that of the Supreme Court.
“A disqualified candidate cannot be said to have participated in an election. Section 141 of the Electoral Act prohibits the court from declaring a party a winner of an election in which he has not fully participated.
On the issue of substitution of Danlandi with his deputy, the court held that “a disqualified candidate cannot be substituted long after an election. A disqualified party in an election has no candidate and cannot claim votes cast as the votes all amounted to wasted votes.
“By section 285 (13) of the 1999 constitution, a deputy candidate cannot be substituted for a principal candidate.
“The proposed Deputy Governor was only a nominee of the principal candidate after the primary election. The Deputy Governor sink and sunk with the disqualified candidate.
“Substitution is not allowed were there is an incompetent candidate. When the nomination of a party is invalid, the party has no candidate.
“The law does not allow a political party to challenge an election which it did not participate.
The court also held that the appellant failed to prove allegations of over-voting by not tendering relevant electoral documents including voters registrar, statement of results among others to demonstrate and prove the alleged over-voting.
“Rather than tendering voters registrar and other relevant documents, the appellant relied on Smart Card Readers at the tribunal.
“I agree with the counsel to the 2nd respondent, Chief Solo Akuma (SAN), that no evidence was led to show where over-voting occurred. The appellant failed completely in proving over-voting.
“I hold that the appellant has no candidate in the March 9 governorship election in Taraba state since it did not sponsor a competent candidate.
“I hold that the appeal is unmeriterious and is hereby dismissed. The judgment of the tribunal is affirmed. Parties are to bear their cost.
Meantime, the tribunal equally dismissed the cross-appeal filed by Governor Ishaku for lacking in merit.
A three-man panel of the tribunal led by Justice M.O. Adewara had in a unanimous judgment of September 20, 2019, dismissed the petition by the APC and it’s candidate, on the grounds that the petitioners failed to prove their claims that the election was marred by irregularities and substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act.
The tribunal further held that Danladi was not qualified to contest the March 9 governorship election.