Supporters of the All Progressives Congress in Taraba State on Saturday said the court had restored their joy and glory of producing the first democratically-elected female governor.

The APC supporters told the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja, shortly after the judgment of the Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal for Taraba which declared Mrs. Aisha Alhassan of APC as governor.

The tribunal, in its judgment delivered at the Court of Appeal premises in Abuja, nullified the election of Darius Ishaku of the PDP on the grounds that he was not validly nominated at the PDP primaries to contest the governorship election.

One of the supporters, Amina Dauda, said the victory was well-deserved “and it shows that the judiciary is the last hope for aggrieved people.

“I am happy that a woman is now the governor of Taraba.

“It is a good encouragement for us and we have made history in Nigeria.”

Another supporter, Mr. Suleiman Ibrahim, said “the judgment is a confirmation that Taraba is for APC.”

Ibrahim said he was happy that a woman from APC was declared winner of the election by the tribunal “and that is a reflection of the wish of Taraba people.”

Meanwhile, the court premises and surroundings were agog with celebration as the verdict of the tribunal filtered to the crowd who were anxiously waiting inside and outside of the premises.

APC supporters were seen jubilating and shouting “APC!, Sai Baba!!.”

Some other groups were also seen outside the court premises blasting music and dancing.

It took the efforts of security men to clear the way for the APC candidate to gain access to her car when she stepped out of the court room, as security was beefed up within and around the court to control the crowd.

Jubilation in Taraba as tribunal sacks gov, declares Alhassan winner

There was wild jubilation in Taraba State on Saturday after the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in Abuja nullified the election of Governor Darius Ishaku of the Peoples Democratic Party, and declared his All Progressives Congress counterpart, Aisha Alhassan, as the winner of the April 11, 2015 election.

Youths and adults in different parts of the state were seen singing, dancing and chanting Alhassan’s name.

The tribunal led by Justice Musa Danladi Abubakar in its judgment ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to immediately withdraw the certificate of return issued to Ishaku as the winner of the election and to issue a new one to Alhassan, who is currently a minister-designate representing Taraba State.

The tribunal held that Ishaku was not qualified to contest the election because there was no proper conduct of the party’s primaries and hence was not duly nominated as PDP candidate in the election as stipulated in the Constitution and the Electoral Act.

It held that all the votes cast for the PDP candidate on April 11, 2015 and in the supplementary poll held on April 25 were wasted and that Alhassan, being the candidate who scored the second highest number votes, was therefore winner of the election.

The tribunal upheld the contention by the petitioners – Alhassan and the APC – that the PDP violated the provisions of section 85 of the Electoral Act, which required service of notice of at least 21 days on INEC before holding of congress for the conduct of primaries.

It held that the PDP only delivered its notice for the conduct of Taraba State governorship primaries at about 6.04pm on December 11, 2014, the day the primaries held in Abuja.

Governor Darius Dickson Ishaku of Taraba State has, however, described the judgment as “totally unacceptable.”

Ishaku spoke at the Presidential Lodge, Jalingo, the Taraba State capital, soon after the ruling.

He said, “This is totally unacceptable; I have told my legal counsel to proceed to the Court of Appeal immediately.”

Ishaku asked the people of Taraba, particularly his supporters, to remain calm and see what the Court of Appeal would decide.

He said, “I am going to appeal the judgment. I want the people of Taraba to remain calm; it is the mandate that they overwhelmingly gave me. We shall do everything possible within the ambit of the law to see that their will is not thwarted.”

The INEC, relying on PDP’s previous notice, was said to have sent its monitoring team to Jalingo, Taraba State capital, on December 8, 2014, to monitor the primaries, which eventually did not hold and the party did not offer any explanation for the non-conduct of the exercise to the electoral body.

The tribunal upheld the contention by the petitioners’ lawyer, Mr. Mahmud Magaji (SAN), that the PDP held the primaries on December 11, 2014 in defiance to requirement of section 87 of the Electoral Act for holding the said primaries in Abuja as against Jalingo without approval from INEC.

“A party that disobeys the provisions of the law cannot be the beneficiary of the law,” the tribunal held.

It also added, “For the aforementioned reasons, the first respondent (Ishaku) was not duly sponsored by his political party as required under section 177(c)of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) nor duly sponsored.

“The first respondent is/was not qualified to have contested the April 11 and 25 governorship election (with supplementary election) of Taraba State.”

The tribunal cited a judgment of the Supreme Court which sacked a Kogi State senator due to his party’s failure to issue notice for the conduct of its primaries within 21 days.

The tribunal held that since Ishaku was not duly nominated by the PDP he “could not have contested the April 11 and 25 election and all the votes cast for him are wasted.

“The effect is that the first respondent did not participate in the election in the eyes of the law,” the tribunal held.

It therefore ordered that “the certificate of return issued to the first respondent (Ishaku) is hereby cancelled.

“The first petitioner (Alhassan) being the candidate who polled the next highest number of votes is hereby declared winner of the election.

“The third respondent (INEC) is hereby ordered to issue fresh certificate of return to the first petitioner.”

In declaring Alhassan the winner, the tribunal held that it was aware of provisions of section 140(1) of the Electoral Act which prohibit an election petition tribunal from declaring a candidate winner of an election, but that the said law was not applicable to a case in which the person declared by INEC as winner was proved not to be qualified for the said election.

But the tribunal had dismissed the second leg of the petition which had to do with allegations by Alhassan and her party, the APC, to the effect that the election was marred by over-voting as the number of votes recorded during the election was more than the number of voters accredited by card reader.

The tribunal held that mere reliance on accreditation by card reader was not sufficient to prove over-voting.

Meanwhile, legal experts said the judgment would not come to effect until Ishaku and other respondents exhaust their rights to appeal against it within 60 days of delivering the judgment.

The Court of Appeal is said to have 60 days from the day of the judgment of the tribunal to hear and determine the appeal by the aggrieved parties.

Any aggrieved party who may also not be satisfied with the judgment of the Court of Appeal has 14 days to appeal to the Supreme Court, which must also hear and determine the appeal within 60 days from the day of judgment of the Court of Appeal.

In effect, barring any unforeseen event, it will take 120 days from the day the judgment of the tribunal was delivered for the verdict if eventually affirmed by the Supreme Court to come to effect.

Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party has described the judgment as another evidence of executive interference in the judiciary.

The party in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, said the reason given by the tribunal for arriving at the decision was intriguing and further exposed the contradictions and double standards inherent in most tribunal rulings against PDP interests recently.

Metuh said, “It is rather curious and a great conflict of irony that the Taraba tribunal sitting in Abuja on security grounds faulted the conduct of PDP primaries shifted to the same Abuja on security reasons.”

He said if the tribunal was faulting the party primaries as basis for its decision, it then means that no APC governorship candidate can stand the test, as their party never had acceptable primaries in any of their states.

Metuh called on democracy watchers globally to recall that the PDP had earlier alerted the nation and the international community of either grand design by the APC to use the judiciary to wrestle some PDP states, particularly Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Taraba states.

He said, “Evidence that Taraba ruling was a product of Presidency manipulation can be deduced from the fact that few hours before the judgment was delivered, the APC had arrogantly announced their victory on the new media.”

Also, the PDP Governors’ Forum has expressed concern at what it termed “judicial buccaneering.”

The forum in a statement by its coordinator, Mr. Osaro Onaiwu, said the conduct of the tribunals in cases involving the PDP leaves much to be desired as it falls short of honoured norms of transparency and justice.

The statement said, “What has become evident is that the judiciary has cornered itself by becoming a pawn in the chessboard of APC buccaneering tactics in cases concerning governors elected on the platform of the PDP.

“If it were not so, why the contradictory judgments emanating from the tribunals even in cases of clear precedence? In Lagos, the tribunal discountenanced the use of card readers and denied the PDP its victory in the face of overwhelming evidence.

“Curiously, other tribunals, weeks after, in the matter of Akwa Ibom and Rivers States ruled on the sanctity of the card reader because it favours the APC. The most telling bias of the judiciary is in the Taraba tribunal ruling.”

Copyright PUNCH.

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