The Governorship Elections Petitions Tribunal sitting in Jos, on Friday, affirmed the election of Gov.Caleb Mutfwang of the PDP as duly elected governor of Plateau.
Justice Sunday Olorundaosi in a two and half judgment on behalf of the panel, dismissed the prayers of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate Dr Nentawe Yilwatda.
Olorundaosi who read the judgment on behalf of the Tribunal Chairman, Justice Rita Ilere-Ifijeh dismissed the three grounds of the petitioners seeking to nullify the election of Mutfwang.
“Gound one which was non qualification of the candidate; the tribunal verdict is that it is status bar because it is a pre-election matter and the tribunal does have the jurisdiction to entertain it.
“On non-compliance with the electoral act, there is no evidence tendered before the tribunal by the petitioners that the conduct of election of March 18, was not in accordance with substantial compliance by the first respondent, which is the INEC.
“Third ground that the second respondent did score the majority of lawful votes cast; the tribunal is of the view that the burden of proof lies with the petitioners to provide evidence.
“Unfortunately, they failed to do so and rely on the final result of the election declared by INEC,’’ he stated.
Counsel to Mutfwang, Mr Akeledolu Kehinde (SAN) lauded the judgment delivered on the three issues that were brought before the tribunal.
Kehinde said that the tribunal decided that it was not in the place of the petitioner to start stretching his neck from his own compound into another man’s compound to see what is happening there.
“That means that the petitioner has no loco standi to challenge the nomination, of the governor, who is in another party from that of the petitioner.
“That means it is an issue that must have been decided before the election. So the tribunal had no jurisdiction to look at that.
“On the issue of electoral act, the tribunal found out that out of 247 polling units that were being contested by the petitioners witnesses were fielded from just 24 which is just 9.2 per cent,’’ he said.
Kehinde further said that in the analysis, the tribunal found that all the witnesses fielded by the petitioners either gave as a evidence or their evidence were so badly damaged and so the tribunal couldn’t rely only on the evidence.
PDP Counsel, Mr Emeka Etiaba in his reaction, said that what was important was that the petition has been consigned to where it belongs to.
Etiaba said that they listened to the judgment and saw that that judgment was diligently written and delivered.
“So, for those who are threatening to go on appeal, everyone has his own judgment so you can go and study some more. We believe that the judges have done justice today.
“But being election matter of course, governorship election matter, we know that some people may still want to go to the Supreme Court. It is a good trip to make, but we believe that nothing will come out of it because this is a judgment that has been well thought out,” he said.
Mr Edward Pwajok (SAN), Counsel to Yilwatda and APC said that his clients would challenge the judgment at the Appeal Court.
Pwajok appealed to Plateau citizens and supporters to be calm and peaceful because there was a judicial system that encourages appeals.
“You are all aware that in Nigeria, sometimes, decisions of lower courts have been overturned in the appellate courts.
“That is a hope of the petitioners because it has happened several times in the past. We are very, very optimistic that at the end of the day, at the end of the appellate process, justice will be served,” added.