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Taraba governorship tribunal adjourns for judgment

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The Taraba State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal on Friday adjourned for judgment in the petition challenging the election of Darius Ishaku of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the second term.

The petition was filed by the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the election held on March 9, 2019, Abubakar Danladi.

On Friday, after lawyers to parties in the case adopted their final written addresses and made final submissions, tribunal Chairman, Justice M.O Adewara said judgment is reserved.

Justice Adewara noted that the life span of the petition will terminate on September 24, 2019, the tribunal should be able to deliver its judgment before then.

“We adjourn this petition to a date to communicated to parties,” the judge said.

Earlier, lawyers to the respondents – Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), PDP and Ishaku – Sunday Ameh (SAN), Solomon Akuma (SAN) and Kanu Agabi (SAN) adopted their final written addresses and urged the court to dismiss the petition.

Ameh (for INEC) after adopting his final address, prayed te court to uphold the election as announced by INEC.

He said: “We urge the tribunal to dismiss the petition and uphold the 1st respondent declaration and return of the 3rd respondent (Ishaku) as the winner of the March 9, 2019 governorship election in Taraba State, same, having been done in substantial compliance with Electoral Act and the Constitution.”

Akuma (for PDP) after adopting is final address, made a brief submission, in which he faulted the petitioners’ written address, which he argued, was filed out of time.

He also faulted the petitioners claim of over-voting, arguing that they failed to prove the allegation as required.
Akuma noted that, rather than prove their claim by results at the polling unit level, the petitioners chose to rely on collated results as contained in the card readers.

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He said: “Over voting is a polling unit infraction, which must be proved at polling unit level. Everything must be done at the polling unit level.”

Agabi (for Ishaku) equally prayed the tribunal to dismiss the petition on the grounds that the reliefs sought by the petitioners could not be granted.

He argued that it was wrong for the petitioners to, on one hand, argue that the election was marred by non-compliance and corrupt practices and on the other hand, prayed that they be declared winners on grounds of majority of lawful votes.

Agabi said “The grounds of majority of lawful votes, claimed by the petitioners cannot avail them, because they have abandoned the petition.

He said: “You cannot claim both grounds together. You cannot claim majority votes and also claim substantial non-compliance and corrupt practices. You cannot plea majority of lawful votes and also plead corrupt practices.”
Agabi also argued that the petition was no longer a valid one because the first petitioner, had been disqualified by a court order.

“There is no doubt that the first petitioner (Danladi) was disqualified by a court of law. The court made an order forbidding him holding himself out as a candidate. The court forbade his party from fielding him as its candidate.

The court also restrained INEC from recognising him as a candidate of the second petitioner (APC),”Agabi said.

He noted that Danladi’s lawyer had disclosed before the tribunal that the Supreme Court upheld the judgment of the High Court, which disqualified Danladi as a candidate for the election.

Responding, Hassan Liman (SAN), who represented the second petitioner, prayed the tribunal to uphold the petition and declared his clients the winners of the election.

Liman faulted arguments by Akuma and Agabi, arguing that the petitioners’ reliefs were presented in the alternative.

He said “If we succeed on the first leg, that we be returned as winners, there would be no need to go to the alternative prayer. If the court did not grant the first leg of our reliefs, it can proceed to grant the alternative, which is to nullify the election.”

On Agabi’s argument that the first petitioner had been disqualified, Liman contended that either a party or its candidate can contest the outcome of an election.

“The petitioners have proved their case on the basis of the scores that were presented. On the face of the result presented, the APC scored 362735, while the PDP scored 520433.

*On the strength of the evidence presented, it is glaring that over-voting was established. If the court nullifies the votes affected by over-voting, the outcome will leave APC as the winner with APC having 341553 and PDP with 322321.”

Liman urged the tribunal to allow the petition by entering judgment for the petitioners.

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