In a significant legal development, the Court of Appeal in Abuja has dismissed an appeal by Titus Uba, the governorship candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), against the election of Hyacinth Alia as Benue State’s elected governor. The court, in a unanimous decision, resolved all three issues against Uba and the PDP.
Justice Onyekachi Otisi, delivering the lead judgment, dismissed Uba’s allegations of non-qualification against Samuel Ode, the deputy governor. Uba had failed to conclusively prove Ode’s alleged forgery of INEC form EC9. The court clarified that such issues of non-qualification are to be addressed at a Federal High Court, not at the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, as Uba had done.
The court also addressed Uba’s claims that Hyacinth Alia’s name was not submitted by the All Progressives Congress to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) within the required 180 days before the March 18 election. However, these allegations were dismissed, as the primary election that selected Alia was ordered by a High Court and conducted within the court’s specified timeframe.
Justice Otisi concluded that Uba’s appeal against the Benue State Election Petition Tribunal’s September 23 judgment lacked merit and was thus dismissed. The tribunal’s judgment was upheld, and Uba’s request to overturn it was rejected. This ruling comes eight months after INEC declared Alia the winner of the governorship election in the North-Central state, where the Catholic priest secured 473,933 votes, significantly ahead of Uba’s 223,913 votes.
The recent dismissal of Titus Uba’s appeal by the Court of Appeal in Abuja marks a pivotal moment in Benue State’s political landscape. This decision not only upholds the democratic process but also reinforces the importance of adhering to legal protocols and timelines in electoral disputes.
We believe that the court’s decision serves as a reminder of the critical role of judicial bodies in safeguarding the integrity of elections. The meticulous examination of Uba’s allegations and the subsequent dismissal based on lack of substantial evidence and procedural missteps underscore the judiciary’s commitment to upholding the law. This outcome should serve as a precedent for future electoral disputes, emphasizing the necessity of presenting concrete evidence and following proper legal channels.
The ruling also highlights the importance of the separation of powers and the distinct roles of different courts in handling election-related matters. The clarification that issues of candidate qualification fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, not the Election Petition Tribunal, is a significant point. It delineates the boundaries of legal authority and ensures that electoral disputes are addressed in the appropriate legal forum.
The court’s handling of the allegations regarding the submission of Hyacinth Alia’s name by the APC to INEC within the stipulated timeframe demonstrates the importance of adhering to court orders and timelines in the electoral process. This aspect of the ruling reinforces the principle that legal directives, especially those from higher courts, must be respected and followed to maintain the sanctity of electoral processes.
In light of this ruling, we urge political parties and candidates to respect the legal processes and outcomes of elections. It is imperative for the sustenance of democracy that electoral disputes are resolved within the legal framework, with respect for the rule of law and judicial decisions. This case should serve as a learning curve for political entities, emphasizing the need for thorough preparation and adherence to legal requirements in electoral contests.
The Court of Appeal’s decision is a testament to the resilience of our judicial system and its role in upholding democratic values. It is a victory not just for the winning party but for the rule of law and the democratic process in Nigeria.
Did You Know?
- Benue State’s Political History: Benue State, often referred to as the “Food Basket of the Nation,” has a rich political history, with its governance alternating between various political parties since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999.
- Role of the Court of Appeal: Nigeria’s Court of Appeal, established in 1976, serves as an intermediary court between the High Courts and the Supreme Court, playing a crucial role in the country’s judicial system, especially in electoral matters.
- Electoral Petition Tribunals: In Nigeria, Election Petition Tribunals are set up specifically for each election cycle to handle disputes arising from elections, a unique feature of the country’s electoral process.
- INEC’s Role in Elections: The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), established in 1998, is responsible for organizing, conducting, and supervising all elections in Nigeria, a critical task in maintaining the country’s democratic framework.
- Judicial Precedents in Election Cases: The outcomes of election-related court cases in Nigeria often set important precedents that influence the conduct of political parties and candidates in subsequent elections, shaping the country’s electoral landscape.