A’Court upturns Al-Hassan’s tribunal victory in Taraba, declares Otti winner of Abia gov poll

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The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on Thursday upturned the November 7, 2015 judgment of the Taraba State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal that nullified the election of Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba State. Also, the Appeal Court sitting in Owerri, the Imo State capital, on Thursday, declared the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Alex Otti, as winner of the April 11 Governorship election in Abia State.

In its ruling, the Court of Appeal in Abuja said that the Taraba State Governorship election petition tribunal lacked power to make an order declaring Al-Hassan Governor essentially as the issue decided upon was a preelection matter which it had no jurisdiction. It held that it was a gross misdirection for the tribunal to have declared the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Hajiya Aisha Jumai Alhassan, winner of the April 11, 2015 governorship election in Taraba State on the basis that she scored the second highest number of votes in the election.

The Taraba State Governorship Election Tribunal which sat in Abuja had on November 7, 2015 declared Aisha Al-Hassan winner of the April 11, 2015 governorship election in the state and ordered that Al-Hassan who is currently the Minister of Women Affairs be sworn in as governor of Taraba State. Dissatisfied with the tribunal decision, Governor Darius Ishaku of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had challenged the judgment based on 11 grounds of appeal, out of which he formulated 10 issues. Delivering the lead judgment, the presiding Justice of the five-man panel, Justice Abdul Aboki, held that Al-Hassan and the APC had no legal right to challenge the alleged improper conduct of the PDP primary which produced Ishaku as a candidate.

The Appeal Court held that the APC and Al-Hassan lacked the locus standi to challenge Ishaku’s qualification to contest the April 11, 2015 governorship election on the basis of alleged non-compliance of the conduct of PDP’s primary with provisions of sections 85 and 87 of the Electoral Act. The Appeal Court also held that it is the inalienable right of political parties to sponsor candidates of their choice for any election. The Appeal Court therefore set aside the judgment of the Justice Danladi Abubakar and ordered that the certificate of return issued to Governor Ishaku by the Independent National Electoral Commission remained valid.

The Court of Appeal had on December 21 reserved the judgment on the four separate appeals challenging the decision of Taraba Governorship election petition Tribunal. Justice Abdul Aboki allowed the appeals by Ishaku, PDP and Independent National Electoral Commission and dismissed the appeal filed by APC and a cross appeal filed by AlHassan. Counsel to Al-Hassan, Mr. Abiodu Owonikoko (SAN), said they would challenge the Court of Appeal at the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal sitting in Owerri, the Imo State capital, has declared the candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Alex Otti, as winner of the April 11 Governorship election in Abia State. The court in its ruling on Thursday ordered the swearing in of Otti, as governor of Abia State and asked Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu to vacate the office

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