Apex court makes Mr Muftwang smile again reaffirming his election as Governor of Plateau state.

Apex court makes Mr Muftwang smile again reaffirming his election as Governor of Plateau state.

Supreme Court affirms Plateau governor’s election after reversing his sack by Appeal Court
Governor Mutfwang of Plateau State plunged into a precarious situation after the Court of Appeal in a judgement delivered in November last year overturned his victory.

The Supreme Court on Friday affirmed the election of Governor Caleb Mutfwang of Plateau State, ending the electoral dispute that had raised doubts about his prospects of completing his term in office.

Mr Mutfwang of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was declared the winner of the governorship election last March by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). However, in a judgement delivered last November, the Court of Appeal upturned his victory.

The Court of Appeal went on to declare his challenger, Nentawe Goshwe of the All Progressives Congress (APC), as the true winner of the keenly contested March 2023 governorship election in the state.

Displeased with the decision, Mr Mutfwang who won at the first level of the challenge to his victory at the Plateau State Governorship Election Tribunal, immediately filed an appeal at the Supreme Court to have the Court of Appeal’s decision overturned.

Delivering the lead judgement of the Supreme Court’s five-member panel on Friday, Emmanuel Agim referenced APC’s contention that the appellant was not qualified to contest the election.

The APC argued that Governor Mutfwang’s nomination as a candidate and his election were invalid by virtue of non-compliance with the electoral law.

The Court of Appeal, upholding APC’s argument, had held that the primary election that produced Governor Mutfwang as PDP’s candidate and his subsequent nomination to INEC were invalid.

But departing from the Court of Appeal’s decision, Mr Agim held, “We have held in a plethora of cases that the sponsorship of a candidate for election is an internal affair of a political party.”

He ruled that the Court of Appeal lacked jurisdiction to determine the validity of the candidacy of the PDP.

He reiterated that Mr Yilwatda of the APC has no right to challenge the emergence of Governor Mutfwang as the candidate of the PDP

The Court of Appeal had anchored its decision sacking the governor on the alleged failure of the PDP to comply with an order of the Plateau State High Court to conduct fresh congresses before holding primary elections for nomination of its candidates for the 2023 general elections.

But the Supreme Court justice said the order of the High Court had nothing to do with the party’s power to conduct a primary election, as it did to nominate Governor Mutfwang as its candidate for the governorship election.

The justice ruled that despite that, there is evidence showing that the order of the Plateau State High Court was complied with by the party.

“Can the tribunal and the Court of Appeal determine the validity of the nomination of a candidate? The justice asked.

The order of the High Court of Plateau State had nothing to do with power of the NEC of the PDP; it is a jurisdictional matter, the justice added.

“The legal profession should wake up,” Mr Agim said, indicating his worry about the shallowness of a trend of legal arguments raised by lawyers and get upheld by courts.

For the reasons given, the judge said, “this appeal is allowed.”

He went on to set aside the judgement of the Court of Appeal and the orders made in it.

He restored the decision of the election tribunal and affirmed Governor Mutfwang’s victory at the March 2023 polls.

In his consenting opinion, Inyang Okoro who headed the five-member panel, said, “My only worry is that a lot of people have suffered as a result of the Court of Appeal’s decision. It was absolutely wrong. The appeal is allowed.”

Also consenting, Helen Ogunwunmiju, said, “It was very wrong for the Court of Appeal to go into the issue of party congresses. To make matters worse, the party challenging the issue is another political party.”

She added that the Court of Appeal made a fundamental error by shifting the burden of proof on Governor Mutfwang.

Governor Mutfwang had scored 525,299 votes to beat APC’s Yilwatda, who garnered 481,370 votes during the 18 March 2023 governorship poll in Plateau State.

The governor’s election was upheld by the Plateau State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal in Jos, the state capital.

However, the Court of Appeal in Abuja overturned the victory, necessitating Mr Mutfwang’s appeal at the Supreme Court.

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