The Benue State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Makurdi, has re-affirmed the victory of Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Iormem Alia of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the duly elected Governor of Benue State in the 18th March Governorship poll.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on March 21, declared APC’s Alia/Ode as the winners of the election after they secured 473,933 votes, to defeat their closest challengers, Titus Tyoapine Uba/Ngbede of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who garnered 223,913 votes.
Dissatisfied with the results as declared by the Commission, Uba & PDP through their lead counsel, Efut Okon SAN approached the tribunal (EPT/BN/GOV/01/2023) seeking certain reliefs as regards the qualifications of the the Governor and Deputy-Governor. INEC, Alia, Sam Ode and APC are listed as the first, second, third and fourth respondents, respectively.
Uba & PDP’s petition are anchored on the following grounds:
(1) That the 2nd Respondent and 3rd Respondent (Deputy-Gov, Sam Ode) were at the time of the election, not qualified to contest the election as their sponsorship was invalid having been done 44 days to the date of the election, which is less than the mandatory period of 180 days required by law for political parties to submit the names of their candidates.
(2) That the 3rd Respondent (Sam Ode) obtained Form EC-9 (Affidavit in support of Personal Particulars) from INEC, filled, signed and submitted the Form to INEC falsely certifying that the said INEC Form EC-9 was sworn to before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
The 1st-3rd respondents through their Counsels challenged the competency of the petition. They averred that these issues been pre-election & intra-party, it is wholly domiciled outside the jurisdiction of the tribunal.
However, the petitioners argued that they were fundamental matters that touched on the Constitutional requirements of the 3rd respondent and indeed the petition.
In tackling the preliminary objections, the tribunal led by the Chairman, Justice Ibrahim Musa Karaye dwelt on the issues of jurisdiction.
Justice Karaye held that:
Issues of nomination, sponsorship and disqualification are issues to be determined by the Federal High Court and not the tribunal.
Citing the cases between ANDP v. INEC, the tribunal is divested from handling such issues it has no jurisdiction over.
The amended provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 in Section 29 confer jurisdiction on “an aspirant”, it is clear that the 1st Petitioner is not a member of the 4th respondent. It is therefore statute-barred having exceeded the 14 days required by law and he lacks locus standi to institute same.
Beyond that, the tribunal berated the petitioners for engaging in an abuse of Court process having raised similar issues at the Federal High Court last year. In the suit: PDP & Uba v. INEC, APC, Alia, Vembe & Ode, the Petitioners failed at the Federal High Court and later at the Appeal Court in February this year.
Adopting the issues as formulated by INEC:
The tribunal held that it is bound to hold that all preliminary objections challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal by the first, second and third respondents succeeds.
The Tribunal lacks jurisdiction to entertain the petition. Alia and Ode were qualified to contest.
The petition is incompetent because issues raised are pre-election matters and ought to have been heard and determined by the Federal High Court