In a landmark ruling, the Nigerian Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja has affirmed the tribunal judgment which declared the All Progressive Congress (APC) candidate, Nasiru Gawuna, the winner of the governorship election.
The Tribunal led by Justice Oluyemi Osadebay had previously nullified the election of Governor Abba Yusuf by declaring 165,663 of his votes invalid. The Tribunal held that the ballot papers were not signed nor stamped by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Displeased by the tribunal verdict, Yusuf appealed against the judgment. Delivering judgment on the matter on Friday, the appeal court held that Yusuf was not qualified to contest the election.
The three-member panel led by Justice M.A Adumeh held that Yusuf was not in the membership register of his political party. Citing a provision of the electoral act, he said a party must have the names of its registered members both in hard and soft copies. He also said that Yusuf did not put up any resistance against the allegation.
“If you claim you are a member of a party is not logical to say so yourself rather than by proxy?”
Justice Adumeh further stated that Section 134 of the electoral act allowed the court to entertain an averment on the qualification of a candidate in an election. He held that the court cannot allow political party acts arbitrary.
“Constitution is supreme and binding on all person including political parties.”
“Political parties cannot be permitted to circumvent the clear and mandatory provision of the constitution. To contest an election you must not only be a member of a party but sponsored by that party,” Justice Adumeh asserted.
The electoral act made it mandatory that a party must keep a register of its members and make it available to INEC before an election. “Abba was not a member of his party by the time he was purportedly sponsored by his party. He was not qualified to qualify for the election. A court must be consistent with its judgment,” Justice Adumeh stated.
He noted that the tribunal was wrong not to have disqualified Yusuf in its ruling. “The tribunal was wrong not to have disqualified him. The failure to comply with sec 177(c) is fatal to their election. A person must. Where a party carelessly nominates a candidate such is a nullity irrespective of whether he performs well. Sponsorship without membership is like putting nothing on something, it cannot stand. This is a clear example of acting with brazen impunity as if the Constitution is not binding,” he held.
However, Justice Adumeh berated political parties for always blaming their defeat at the court on the judges. He said, “The same party will wake up to accuse the judiciary including infamous allegations of corrupt practices.”
“All the issues are hereby resolved against the appellant. The judgment of the tribunal is hereby affirmed. The sum of N1m is hereby awarded in favour of the first respondent against the appellant,” Justice Adumeh concluded.