… AS APPEAL TRIBUNAL ORDER TRIAL OF ONJE’HS PETITION
From Achussah Denen, Markudi
The National/State Assembly Elections Petition Tribunal in Makurdi has dismissed the petition brought before it by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP candidate, Akpagher Daniel Iorbee Kwande West State Constituency in the April 26th, 2011 general elections on the ground that the petitioner has failed to prove his case.
It is recalled that Akpagher who dissatisfied with the conduct of the April 2011’s general election brought a petition before the Justice Ansellem Nwaigwe led National /State Assembly election petition tribunal against Hon. Benjamin Nungwa who was declared winner of the election, Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The petition was predicated on three grounds – 1. that the first respondent (Benjamin Nungwa) was not qualified to contest the election under the platform of the ACN; 2. that the elections in 28 polling units was invalid by reason of non compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and, 3. that Hon. Benjamin Nungwa was not validly elected to represent Kwande West Constituency in the Benue State House of Assembly.
The application presented by lead counsel to Benjamin Nungwa, F.T. Uparegh seeking to dismiss the petition for failure of the petitioner to seek leave of the tribunal for the issuance of pre-trial notice was ruled in favour of the petitioner.
Justice Nwaigwe in his judgment held that ground one of the petitioner’s petition is a pre-election matter hence the tribunal lacks the jurisdiction to entertain it.
He also held that the petitioner has failed to join other persons he made allegations of electoral malpractice as parties in the petition hence tribunal can not make valid pronouncement on such persons more so that the petitioner has failed to prove the allegations of electoral malpractice to enable tribunal enter judgment in his favour.
Consequently, he dismissed the petition for want of merit and awarded ten thousand naira only as cost to the first and second respondents.
F.T. Uparegh, counsel to Hon. Benjamin Nungwa described the judgment as a reflection of the people’s popular demand.
Kenneth Ula, the petitioner’s counsel told reporters that he reserved comments on the judgment.
Meanwhile in a related development, the appeals tribunal in Makurdi has ordered the lower tribunal to retry the petition earlier brought before it by the ACN’s Daniel Onjeh challenging the return of Hassan Sali as the winner of the Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo Federal Constituencies election which it earlier dismissed on the ground that the issue sought for determination therein is a pre-election matter.
Onjeh, erstwhile President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and the West African Students Union (WASU) told reporters shortly after the Appeals Tribunal’s decision that he was delighted that the case was refer back to the tribunal.
He said he has sufficient documentary evidence to show that Hassan Sali was not the PDP’s candidate in the said election.
He further revealed that at the time of the election, Hassan Sali’s name was not among INEC’s list of candidates for the election and wondered how he became a candidate in the election when time allowed for substitution of candidates had elapsed.
Onjeh’s counsel Sunday Aigbe told journalists that the decision of the Appeals Court has vindicated the hope and aspirations of the common man.
He noted that the issue of qualification for elections is expressly provided for in the constitution and must be heard on its merit.