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Appeal Court upholds Alia’s election as Benue governor

The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on Monday affirmed Reverend Father Hyacinth Alia of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the validly elected governor…

The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on Monday affirmed Reverend Father Hyacinth Alia of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the validly elected governor of Benue State.

The candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the March 18 governorship election, Titus Uba, had approached the appellate court to set aside the judgement of the tribunal, which upheld Alia’s election.

At the tribunal, Uba, among other things, alleged that Alia’s deputy, Samuel Ode, presented a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission contrary to Section 182(1)(j) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).

He also claimed that Alia’s name was submitted less than 180 days before the election date, and Ode was also not submitted to INEC after the party conducted a further re-run primary election.

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A three-member panel of the tribunal, headed by Justice Ibrahim Karaye, dismissed the petition on the ground that it was a pre-election matter and was statute-barred.

Ruling on the appeal on Monday, the appeal court’s three-member panel led by Justice Onyekachi Aja Otisi held that Uba failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt the allegations of forgery against Ode.

She said, “The appellant failed to prove the allegation of forgery beyond reasonable doubt. No other form of EC9 was presented. To prove forgery, two documents must be produced; the original and the forged document. The appellant failed to prove an element of forgery by not making available the documents.”

Citing Section 29(5) of the Electoral Act, she held that the high court and not the tribunal have the jurisdiction to hear the matter.

She added that the appellant lacked the locus standi to challenge the qualification of the deputy governor since he was not part of the party’s primary.

She also held that the rerun primary election was conducted in obedience to a court order, adding that the timeframe prescribed for the submission of names by the Electoral Act would collapse.

“There is a difference between an election conducted based on court order and that of the Electoral Act. The timeline of the Act will collapse where there is a court order,” she added.

“The appeal hereby fails. Parties shall bear their costs,” she held.

The petition challenging the election was filed after INEC returned Alia with 473,933 votes to defeat Uba with 223,914 votes.

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