In very quick succession, the Court of Appeal, at different times in a space of 4 days, sacked three sitting governors over inadequacies in the mode of their election during the March 18 governorship election.
Plateau state Governor Caleb Mutfwang of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was the third as the appellate court sitting Abuja, removed him from office, even as he intends appealing the judgement at the Supreme Court.
In his place, the court pronounced Nentawe Goshwe of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as winner and ordered the he be issued a certificate of return.
On Thursday, the appellate had sacked Zamfara state Governor Dauda Lawal of the PDP on account of inconclusive poll in some local government areas.
The APC candidate and current Miniter of State for Defence, Bello Matawalle, had challenged the tribunal’s decision which ruled his petition was lacking in merit.
Similarly, the court upheld the decision of the election petition tribunal which sacked Kano state Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf of the New Nigeria People’s Party(NNPP) over party membership, among others.
And in his place, the court ordered that Nasiru Gawuna of the APC be issued the certificate of return.
And coming in the wake of the verdicts, the Court of Appeal sacked Governor Mutfwang who polled 525,299 votes to defeat APC’s Goshwe, who secured 481,370 votes during the polls.
Goshwe challenged the victory of Mutfwang at the tribunal claiming that the governor was not validly nominated and sponsored by his party.
He also said there was non-compliance with the Electoral Act in the election.
A three-member panel of the tribunal headed by Justice R. Irele-Ifijeh, in a unanimous decision, dismissed the petition for lacking in merit.
Displeased with the judgment, the APC candidate appealed the tribunal judgment.
And in its judgment Sunday, the three-member panel of the Court of Appeal led by Justice Elfrieda Williams-Dawodu, citing Section 177 of the Constitution, held that the governor was not validly sponsored by the PDP for the election.
She held that the party violated a court order directing it to conduct a valid congress in the 17 local government areas of that state.
The panel held that there was no evidence that the PDP complied with a subsisting High Court order which had directed it to conduct a valid party congress prior to its sponsorship of the governorship and other candidates.
The court held that the issue of qualification is both a pre-election and a post-election matter contrary to the position 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 requirements to do so.
She then ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to retrieve the Certificate of Return issued to the governor and issue a fresh certificate to Goshwe.
In similar vein, the court also affirmed the sacking of the lawmaker representing Langtang Central State Constituency of the state, Rimvjat Nanbol.
Nanbol of the PDP had been sacked by the National and State Houses of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal September.
The tribunal declared Daniel Listic of the Labour Party(LP) as winner of the state constituency election.
Delivering his ruling, Justice Okon Abang held that the tribunal was right when it held it had jurisdiction to sit over the internal affairs of a political party with regard to non-qualification and the issue of sponsorship.
“It is my view that without complying with court order, there was no party by the name PDP in the election.
“It is a joke taken too far for a political party to disobey an order of court,” he added.
Abang also noted that a court of law has jurisdiction to entertain a matter bordering on a political party, especially if that party disobeys a subsisting order of a court.
Also, the panel of judges, led by Justice Williams-Dawodu, in a unanimous judgement sacked Hon. Josephine Akawu of the PDP, and returned APC’s Hon. Yakubu Sanda to represent Pengana state constituency.
The court also sacked Hon. Agbalak Adukuchill Ibrahim of the PDP and returned Eli Bako Ankala of APC for Rukuba/Irigwe constituency.
Meanwhile, residents of parts of Jos City went on wild jubilation upon hearing the verdict of the court.
Some of them who spoke said “the court has done the right thing by restoring the our stolen mandate.”
…It’s temporary setback – Mutfwang
And in his rection, Governor Mutfwang described the verdict sacking him as a temporary setback that will not deter him from repositioning the state on the path of unity, peace and progress.
He expressed strong optimism that the mandate overwhelmingly given to him by the people of Plateau state would be restored, as he has instructed his legal team to file an appeal at the Supreme Court.
This was contained in a statement Sunday by his spokesman, Gyang Bere, in Jos.
“Governor Mutfwang in a statement on Sunday, admonished citizens of the state and supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to remain calm and assured them that as long as God remains on the throne, the mandate of the people will be preserved and protected.
“He reiterated his commitment to the rule of law and assured the people that there is light at the end of the tunnel, as he has unwavering faith in the judiciary and the constitution of Nigeria,” the statement read in parts.
Governor Mutfwang concluded with a strong appeal to supporters, as well as citizens of the state to maintain law and order.
He affirmed that Plateau will be victorious to the glory of God and reassured of his commitment to continually serve the state with dedication and integrity.
Meanwhile, the Plateau state Police Command Sunday warned persons wanting to foment trouble following the court ruling to have rethink.
Commissioner of Police Okoro J. Alawari gave the warning in a statement by the command’s spokesman, DSP Alfred Alabo.
He said: “Following the Court judgement on March 18th Gubernatorial Election in Plateau State delivered by the Appeal Court sitting in Abuja earlier today, the Plateau State Police Command has received credible intelligence which revealed that some hoodlums and criminal- minded individuals are planning to disrupt the peace currently being enjoyed in the State.
“In the interest of peace, the Commissioner of Police…hereby, issues a stern warning to such persons to abort their criminal intentions which have the potential of causing chaos and breach of peace in the State.”
Alawari urged all members of the public to respect the verdict of the court, maintain calm across the state and refrain from any actions that could incite violence or cause harm to lives and property of the citizenry.
The CP implored all aggrieved parties to do the right thing by seeking redress in a higher Court and allow peace prevail in the State, while appealing to parents, guardians and religious and traditional leaders to caution their wards, subjects and followers against participating in any form of misconduct that may disrupt the peace of the State.
“The Command will not hesitate to deal decisively with any one found culpable in accordance with the relevant laws,” the Police cautioned.
It further assured the public of the command’s unflinching commitment to maintaining law and order just as he advised residents to remain calm and go about their lawful businesses.
Like his Plateau counterpart, Governor Abba Yusuf said he had instructed his legal team to challenge the appeal court’s ruling at the Supreme Court.
“We have consulted all stakeholders and resolved and decided that our lawyers should challenge the Appeal Court judgement at the Supreme Court.
“We believe and have the confidence that the Supreme Court will reclaim the mandate of the Kano people who voted for us,” he said.