16 December 2008

Nigeria: Appeal Court Affirms Shagaya's Election

Jos — The Court of Appeal sitting in Jos yesterday ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to immediately issue a Certificate of Return to Brig-Gen. John Shagaya (rtd), whose election was earlier nullified by the elections petition tribunal.

Justice Alfred Awala, who presided over the appeal allowed Shagaya's appeal, saying it was meritorious.

Elections held in three of the six local governments that make up the Plateau South Senatorial District, namely Shendam, Mikang and Wase in the April 2007 general elections.

Elections did not hold in the remaining three councils because the logo and name of the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) were omitted on the ballot papers to be used for the exercise.

A stakeholders' meeting was immediately convened to address the problem where it was agreed that election should then hold in the remaining three councils, Langtang South, Quaan Pan and Langtang North, on April 28 2007.

The ballot papers used were those of the presidential election, with the word 'presidential' cancelled and replaced with 'Senate'.

On this account, the Action Congress (AC) candidate, Silas Janfa and DPP candidate, Brig-Gen. Jonathan Temlong (rtd), challenged the staggering of the election and the use of presidential ballot papers for Senate elections.

The election petitions tribunal upheld their prayers and consequently nullified Shagaya's election as a senator representing that zone.

Shagaya appealed the decision of the tribunal.

But yesterday, the Court of Appeal, held that the lower tribunal did not properly evaluate the preponderance of evidence before it before nullifying Shagaya's election in the first instance.

"I am of the view that for the lower tribunal to nullify the election of the appellant (Shagaya) is perverse. I resolve the issues in favour of the appellant. The appeal is meritorious and is hereby allowed. The judgment entered into by the lower court in respect of Plateau South Senatorial District nullifying the appellant's election is hereby set aside. I make no order as to costs. So, the appellant remains where he is as the senator representing Plateau South Senatorial District ," Awala stated.

Similarly, former military governor of Katsina State whose election to the Senate had been a legal controversy in Benue North East, Brig-Gen. Joseph Akaagerger, can now heave a sigh of relief as his election as a senator was re-affirmed last week by the Court of Appeal sitting in Jos.

At the April 21 2007 senatorial election, Akaagerger of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). But his All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) opponent, Benjamin Ikyayon, challenged him at the Benue State election petitions tribunal on the ground that Akaagerger's election was characterised by fraud and other electoral irregularities and therefore it should be nullified.

The election tribunal upheld the prayer, saying the election was invalid because it was conducted in substantial non-compliance with the 2006 Electoral Act, as the results were not generated from the polling booths.

Akaagerger, not satisfied with the lower court's decision, appealed the judgment on the ground that the lower tribunal that annulled his election erred in law by upholding Ikyayon's petition which was filed outside the mandatory period allowed.

The question of the period of filing the petition became the issue.

Delivering judgment on the matter, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa of the Court of Appeal, said the election was held on April 21, 2007 nationwide and the results were made known on the following day, April 22, while Ikyayon's petition at the lower tribunal was dated May 22, 2007.

According to Justice Bulkachuwa, computing the 30 days starts from the day the election results were declared, saying the rule must be applied without adding any colouration.

She said: "Computation starts from the day the election result was declared. A petitioner has 30 days within which to file his petition. 'From' means the day the result is declared must be included while computing. Time began to run on the day the result was declared. In the circumstance, the appeal is allowed. The decision of the lower tribunal was a nullity and I hereby set aside the judgment of the lower tribunal.

"Joseph Akaagerger as senator representing Benue North East is hereby affirmed. No costs awarded."

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