The Court of Appeal in Abuja, on Monday, upheld the election of the Benue State governor, Hyacinth Alia.
Mr Alia, a Roman Catholic priest, won the election on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), defeating his closest challenger, Titus Uba, the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Mr Uba is the immediate past Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly.
A three-member panel of the Court of Appeal headed by Onyekachi Otisi dismissed Mr Uba’s appeal against the judgement of the Benue State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal.
In September, the tribunal held that it lacked jurisdiction to entertain pre-election issues raised by Mr Uba.
Dissatisfied with the decision, the PDP candidate appealed, seeking to overturn Mr Alia’s victory.
However, in a unanimous decision on Monday, the Court of Appeal resolved all the issues in favour of the governor, including the alleged non-qualification of Mr Alia and his deputy, Sam Ode, to vie for the 18 March election.
Ms Otisi said the PDP governorship candidate failed to prove the allegation of forgery of INEC’s documents levelled against Mr Ode.
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The Court of Appeal also held that the issues of non-qualifications were pre-election matters which can only be challenged at the Federal High Court instead of the election petition tribunal.
Unlike in the past, the Electoral Act 2022 confers exclusive jurisdiction of hearing pre-election suits on the Federal High Court.
The court further noted that a pre-election case challenging the authenticity of a candidate for election can only be instituted within 14 days.
She added that Mr Uba as a member of the PDP lacked the right to challenge the emergence of Mr Alia who was the flagbearer of the APC.
Ruling on the issue of APC’s failure to submit Mr Alia’s name to INEC within the statutory 180 days before 18 March, the appellate court said the primary election that produced the APC governorship candidate was sanctioned by the Federal High Court in Makurdi, the state capital.
Dismissing the appeal, Ms Otisi said Mr Uba’s case lacked merit.
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