11 February 2016

Nigeria: Supreme Court Dashes Mama Taraba's Hopes, Upholds Gov. Ishaku's Election

The Supreme Court has upheld the election of Darius Ishaku as the governor of Taraba State, affirming an earlier decision of the Court of Appeal.

The court dismissed an appeal by the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Aisha Alhassan, saying it lacked merit.

The reason for the judgement is to be given on February 22, the Supreme Court said.

"I am firmly of the view that there is no merit in this appeal. It is hereby refused," said Justice Bodeh-Rhode Vivore, who read the lead judgement of a seven-member panel. "The judgement of the court of Appeal is affirmed and the return of the first respondent as the governor of Taraba is affirmed."

Mrs. Alhassan had approached the highest court through with four applications to challenge the decision of the Appeal Court, which nullified the victory given her by the Taraba State Election Tribunal.

A five-member panel of the Appeal Court in Abuja had on December 31 nullified the ruling of the Taraba State Election Tribunal on November 7, which declared Mrs. Alhassan winner of the April 11 election of the state.

The tribunal ruled that the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mr. Ishaku, was not nominated by his party, and therefore not qualified for the said election.

The counsel to the APC and its candidate, Abiodun Owonikoko, told the Supreme Court on Thursday that the reason for the judgement of the tribunal, was that the important determinant for the sponsorship of a candidate for election, under the Nigerian Constitution, remained the conduct of a primaries by the sponsoring party.

"What is decisive of this appeal is the sponsorship as a ground to qualify for contesting in an election, by the constitution," said Mr. Owonikoko.

Citing the previous judgements of the Supreme Court in the case against, Benue State's Tarsus and Ortom, which was held on January 15, and another judgement regarding the case of Zamfara State's Yari and Shinkafi, Mr. Owonikoko said the applicants in the aforementioned appeals founded their application on an alleged lack of conduct of primaries, by the respondents.

He further said that their argument was that no primaries was conducted at all by the PDP, which would have resulted in the emergence of Mr. Ishaku as its candidate.

But counsel to Mr. Ishaku, Kanu Agabi, said the appeal court had in its ruling stated that the APC and its candidate were bound by their pleas.

He said the appellants had admitted in the third paragraphs of their applications that Mr. Ishaku was a member of the PDP and a candidate of the party in the April 11 elections of the state.

"The second respondent is a duly registered party and 'sponsored' by the first respondent," he stated, citing a quote from the appellant's brief.

Mr. Agabi further said the appellants repeatedly fielded the first respondent as being sponsored by the PDP.

He further told the court that they had presented 51 witnesses before the tribunal, who were not reviewed.

Also in his address, counsel to the PDP, Solo Ahmed, said the party had never denied sponsoring Mr. Ishaku.

He said the appellants had submitted that there was no primary election, but went ahead to state that it (the primaries) was conducted in Abuja.

He further told the court that the previous judgements cited by Mr. Owonikoko had indicated that issues relating to the conduct of primaries in an election were pre-election matters that could only be contested by members of the party in question, or by INEC.

The counsel to INEC, Joseph Daudu, reiterated the point made by Mr. Ahmed, regarding the position of the APC on the conduct of primaries by the PDP.

According to Mr. Daudu, the APC's claim that there was no primary election was premised on the contention that the primaries was conducted in Abuja.

He therefore prayed the court to dismiss the appeal.


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