The Court of Appeal In Abuja has cancelled the purported victory handed Aisha Alhassan, by an election tribunal, as the governor of Taraba State.
Mrs. Alhassan, the candidate of the All Peoples Congress, was declared winner on November 7.
In doing so, the Taraba State Governorship Election Tribunal nullified the election of Darius Ishaku of the Peoples Democratic Party.
But in its ruling Thursday, the Court of Appeal which reviewed Mr. Ishaku’s appeal, described as “unattainable” a petition by the APC seeking to disqualify Mr. Ishaku as the PDP candidate in the gubernatorial election of April 11.
In a unanimous ruling, a five-man panel led by Justice Abdul Aboki said that the Election Tribunal was wrong in giving victory to Mrs. Alhassan, while nullifying the election of Mr. Ishaku.
The judges said the constitution clearly states that unless a candidate has been indicted by a court of law, or is known to have a criminal record, or has certain degree of health condition, among others, such a person cannot be determined by a tribunal as not being qualified as a candidate.
Mr. Aboki said the failure of a party to conduct a conclusive primaries – the grounds the tribunal cited for disqualifying Mr. Ishaku – was clearly a pre-election matter which the tribunal has no jurisdiction on.
Mr. Aboki said the important question about Section 85 of the Electoral Act was whether the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, which the section was made for, was complaining about the candidature of Mr. Ishaku.
“If INEC does not see any reason to complain, can the first and second respondent be seen complaining loudly?” Mr. Aboki questioned.
“I have found in this case that the first and second respondent have no right to challenge the emergence of the PDP governorship candidate since none of them is a member of the PDP,” said Mr. Aboki.
Mr. Aboki also said that the election tribunal drew wrong conclusions from the evidences provided by the witnesses.
Mr. Aboki said the constitution does not provide for the type of judgement that gave victory to Mrs. Alhassan.
He said the constitution states that if a person is considered unqualified for an election, the election should be declared null and void.
In the event that the election is considered to have been affected by irregularities, the judge said the court shall not declare the person with the second highest votes winner, but can only demand a rerun of elections.
“It is therefore a gross misdirection in law on the part of the trial tribunal to declare the first petitioner as the winner of the election of April 2015 for emerging with the second highest votes”.
“The decision of the tribunal is hereby set aside,” said Mr. Aboki.
He upheld the decision of INEC to return Mr. Ishaku as the duly elected governor of the state.
The APC had argued that Mr. Ishaku could not have been qualified for the election since he allegedly did not partake in any primaries by his party.