Nigeria: Supreme Court Retains Ortom, Fintiri in Office

22 January 2020

Abuja, Makurdi — The main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday got relief as the Supreme Court held that both Dr. Samuel Ortom and Alhaji Ahmadu Fintiri were duly elected as governors of Benue and Adamawa States, respectively in the March 9 governorship election.

A former Senate President, Senator David Mark, has congratulated Ortom, urging him to be magnanimous in victory.

The seven-member panel of Justices of the apex court presided over by Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour dismissed the two separate appeals challenging their victory at last year's general election.

Both governorship candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Emmanuel Jime and Mr. Jibrilla Bindow, for Benue and Adamawa States respectively, had approached the apex court to set aside the two different judgments at the lower courts that upheld the elections of Ortom and Fintiri.

They had anchored their case on alleged over voting and non-compliance with the electoral laws during the conduct of the governorship election in their respective states.

However, in their findings in the two appeals, the apex court came to the conclusion that the two appellants failed to prove their allegations beyond reasonable doubt.

Jime had in his own appeal prayed the Supreme Court to set aside the concurrent decisions of the Benue State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal and the Court of Appeal which upheld the election of Ortom as duly elected governor of Benue State.

Other respondents in the suit include Ortom's party, the PDP and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

His appeal was anchored on alleged malpractices, over voting and non-compliance with the electoral laws during the conduct of the Benue State governorship poll.

However, Bindow, who was the immediate past governor of Adamawa State, had predicated his appeal on alleged over-voting in 385 polling units upon which he asked the apex court to sack Fintiri.

He submitted that if the alleged illegal votes were deducted from the total votes cast at the election, he would have majority of the lawful votes cast at the election to defeat the incumbent.

However, delivering judgment in the appeal, the apex court in its judgment delivered by Justice Sylvester Ngwuta dismissed Jime's appeal for lacking in merit.

In the less than 20 seconds judgment, Justice Ngwuta held that, "There was no need to disturb the decision of the lower courts" and consequently dismissed the appeal.

He then went ahead to affirm the election of Ortom as duly elected Governor of Benue State.

Similarly, the Supreme Court also went ahead to dismiss the appeal seeking the sack of Fintiri as Adamawa governor for also lacking in merit.

Justice Dattijo Mohammed who delivered the unanimous judgment of the seven-member panel held that the appellants failed to prove the claim of over voting on which their case was predicated on.

According to Justice Mohammed, to prove over voting in any election the petitioner or appellant must establish that the votes cast at an election are more than the number of those accredited to vote in the smart card reader.

He added that there is need for the petitioner to lead concrete evidence that there was indeed over voting and that the over voting was in favour of the respondent.

However the apex court stated that none of the witnesses called by the appellant from the 12 out of the 21 Local Government Areas in Adamawa State were from polling units where the alleged infractions occurred.

Hence the lower courts were not wrong in disregarding their evidence.

Justice Mohammed further held that the appellant was wrong to have anchored his claim of over voting on the smart card reader alone because the smart card reader cannot replace the manual system of voting.

The court accordingly dismissed the appeal and affirmed the concurrent judgments of the lower courts which held that Fintiri was duly elected as governor of Adamawa State.

Meanwhile, Mark, has urged Ortom to be magnanimous in victory.

In a congratulatory message to Ortom, the former Senate president advised him to extend hands of fellowship to his major opponent, Jime and his supporters in the task of working for the good of Benue people. He further enjoined the governor to be a father to all irrespective of party affiliation saying, "Your good works, security, peace and unity of the state would be the needed legacies."

Mark noted that the affirmation is a validation of the mandate given to Ortom by the people of Benue State. Mark also congratulated the governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, Bauchi's Senator Bala Mohammed, his Taraba State counterpart, Mr. Darius Ishaku, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State and Mr. Seyi Makinde of Oyo State over their electoral victories at the apex court.

He reminded them of the need to make a difference in the lives of their citizens by working assiduously for the development of their states.

The PDP had mounted a protest over the loss of Imo State governorship through a Supreme Court judgment which annulled the election of its candidate, Hon Emeka Ihedioha, and installed Senator Hope Uzodinma of the APC as the governor.

The party alleged political manipulation of the judicial process and said it no longer had faith in the leadership of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Mohammad, to do justice in its outstanding cases in Sokoto, Kano, Plateau, Bauchi, Adamawa and Benue.

At the conclusion of the cases yesterday, the PDP won four and lost two, Kano and Plateau appeals, to the APC.

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