Judgement against facts of the case — PDP
By John C. Azu, Itodo D. Sule, Baba Martins (Abuja), Ado A. Musa & Yusufu A. Idegu (Jos)
The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja has nullified the election of Governor Caleb Muftwang of Plateau State.
Daily Trust reports that the sacking of Muftwang of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) came less than 48 hours after the appellate court had also sacked the governor of Kano State, Abba Kabir Yusuf, of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) while the governor of Zamfara State, Dauda Lawal of the PDP was also been sacked a day earlier.
Delivering judgment on the Plateau case on Sunday, a three-member panel of the court led by Justice Elfrieda Williams-Dawodu in a unanimous decision held that Muftwang was not validly sponsored by his party as provided by Section 285(2) of the Nigerian Constitution.
The panel held that the appeal brought by Nentawe Goshwe of the All Progressives Congress (APC) succeeded as the issue of qualification was both a pre- and post-election matter under Section 177(c) of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999 and Sections 80 and 82 of the Electoral Act, 2022.
The panel agreed with the appellant (Goshwe) that the failure of the PDP to comply with the order of the Plateau State High Court in Jos in suit No: PLD/J304/2020 between Bitrus B. Kaze & 11 ors vs the Peoples Democratic Party & 24 ors directing it to conduct valid ward, local governments and state congresses before nominating its candidates for the various elective posts, and the Court of Appeal order in CA/J1/93/2021 was a breach of the law.
Thus, the panel set aside the judgement of the Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal for being “highly inconsistent and breach of fair hearing by relying on expunged witnesses’ statements to refuse Goshwe’s appeal.”
The panel ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw the certificate of return issued to Muftwang and issue a fresh one to Goshwe.
In a related development, another panel of the Court of Appeal in Abuja sacked three PDP lawmakers of the State House of Assembly.
The sacked lawmakers are Happiness Akawu (Pengana), Ibrahim Agbalak (Rukuba) and Nanbol Rimvyat (Langtang North Central).
I will include PDP, LP in my govt – Goshwe
Reacting to the judgment, Goshwe in a phone interview with Daily Trust said he will run an inclusive government that will include members of other political parties.
“This is a victory for democracy and for the people of Plateau State, that is why I am going to form a government of unity comprising of those in PDP, APC and Labor Party in the state. Everybody will be carried along, I’m going to run an all-inclusive government, my government is going to be people’s government,” he said.
Reacting, the PDP described the judgement sacking its governorship candidate as against the facts of the matter.
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Debo Ologunagba, told journalists that the PDP was aware of what was happening in Plateau, adding that that was why the party had before now called for the Plateau Appeal Panel to be disbanded and a new one put in place that will deliver justice without fear or favour.
Uneasy calm as residents, party supporters react
In Jos, while some residents were seen to be jubilant after the judgment, some appeared to be in a pensive mood, albeit without any violent reactions.
Simon Agada, a resident of Tudun Wada of Jos North LGA and a member of the APC said he was happy that the APC candidate was declared winner of the election, applauding the Appeal Court for the judgement.
But Pankeys Simon, a resident of Buhur community of Jos South LGA and member of the PDP said “I am not happy with the judgement because the decision of the court was not right. We won our election and the tribunal affirmed the election but today, the appeal upturned the victory. We are not happy.”
Davou Pam, who is a supporter of the PDP, also accused the judiciary of, “subverting the will of majority people of Plateau State. People came out to vote in their numbers but were denied by the court.”
Meanwhile, the member representing Pankshin/Kanam/Kanke Federal Constituency of the state in the House of Representatives, Yusuf Adamu Gagdi, has hailed the Appeal Court verdict declaring Goshwe as the governor of Plateau.
Gagdi, while congratulating Nentawe on his victory in a statement on Sunday, described the verdict as a new dawn for the people of the state.
Be on red alert – APC tells police
Also reacting to the judgment, the Chairman of the APC in the state, Rufus Bature, appealed to members and supporters of the party in the state to remain calm and refrain from any “provocative acts that would affect the peace and tranquillity of our beloved state.”
In a statement by the state Publicity Secretary, Sylvanus Namang, the state chairman said “There is no victor and no vanquished as Plateau State and its people remain brothers and sisters who should work for the common good of the state.
He also called on security agencies in the state to be on red alert and vigilant to avert any acts of breakdown of law and order.
Police raise alarm on plan to disrupt peace
On its part, the Plateau State Police Command has said the command has received credible intelligence which revealed that some hoodlums and criminally-minded individuals were planning to disrupt the peace currently being enjoyed in the state.
The police, in a statement by the command’s spokesman, Alabo Alfred, said in the interest of peace, the Commissioner of Police, Okoro Alawari, issued a stern warning to such persons to abort their criminal intentions which have the potential of causing chaos and breach of peace in the state.
He also urges all members of the public to respect the verdict of the court, maintain calm across the state and refrain from any action that could incite violence or cause harm to lives and property of the citizenry.
Daily Trust reports that the command had early on Sunday morning placed anti-riot policemen at strategic locations and flash points across the state capital.
A police officer, who pleaded anonymity told Daily Trust that, “We will remain on the streets throughout the next one week. We are under instruction not to allow any jubilation or any protest. We are here to enforce peace at all costs. We are also on the streets to give residents the confidence to go about their normal businesses.