ABUJA, NIGERIA – In a landmark ruling, the Appeal Court in Abuja has sacked the Plateau State Governor, Caleb Mutfwang, and declared the candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Nentawe Goshwe, as the duly elected governor of the state.
The court, in a unanimous decision delivered on Sunday by Justice Elfrieda Williams-Dawodu, set aside the judgment of the Plateau State Election Petitions Tribunal which had affirmed the election of Governor Mutfwang.
Justice Williams-Dawodu held that the tribunal erred in dismissing the petition filed by the APC and its candidate on the ground that they had no business meddling in the affairs of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on which platform Mutfwang was elected.
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The court ruled that the decision of the tribunal was a breach of Section 177 of the 1999 Constitution as amended and Section 134 (C) of the Electoral Act.
According to the court, Governor Mutfwang was not validly sponsored by the PDP during the election. The court held that the party violated a court order that a valid congress be conducted in the 17 local government areas of the state, by conducting congress in only five local government areas of the state.
The court also held that the issues contained in the petition filed by the appellants were both pre-election and post-election matters and could not have been deemed status barred.
While dismissing the decision of the tribunal, the court held that the issue of qualification is both a pre-election and a post-election matter contrary to the findings of the tribunal which held that the appellant lacked the locus to contest the validity of the respondent.
The court also noted that under section 134 of the Electoral Act, it is the sole right of a political party to sponsor its candidate having met the necessary requirements to do so.
While evoking section 136 of the Electoral Act, the court ordered INEC to retrieve the certificate of return issued to Governor Mutfwang and issue a fresh certificate of return to Goshwe.
In a concurring judgment, Justice Okon Abang said that unless the PDP resolved its issues in Plateau State, it would always suffer self-inflicted misfortune.
The judgment of the Appeal Court is a major setback for Governor Mutfwang and the PDP. It is also a victory for the APC and its candidate, Goshwe.
The ruling is expected to have a significant impact on the political landscape of Plateau State. It is also likely to have implications for the PDP at the national level