The Court of Appeal in Abuja on Monday upheld the election of Ayodele Fayose as governor of Ekiti State during the June 21, 2014 gubernatorial election in the state.
Mr. Fayose contested the election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party.
In giving its ruling, the superior court upheld the judgment of the Election Tribunal which had earlier dismissed the petition by the All Progressives Congress challenging Mr. Fayose’s victory.
“We have looked carefully into this appeal, and found no merit in it and it is hereby dismissed. The judgment of the Tribunal delivered on December 19, 2014 succeeds”, the court held.
The court, however, made a definite pronouncement on the role of the military in the conduct of elections, saying it ought not to have been deployed during the poll.
Based on the provisions of the law, the court stated that the military had no role to play in electoral process, adding that whoever deployed the military during the election in Ekiti State had breached the law.
While affirming the decision of the tribunal, the court dismissed the appeal brought by the APC.
The tribunal had on December 19, 2014, upheld Mr. Fayose’s election but not satisfied with the ruling, the APC approached the Appeal Court to overturn the decision of the tribunal.
In its appeal, the APC submitted that the tribunal erred in law by dismissing the ground of certificate forgery it made against Mr. Fayose.
The party also challenged the decision of the tribunal to strike out the Chief of Army Staff and the Nigerian Army as parties to the petition.
The APC had further challenged the tribunal’s decision which denied jurisdiction to pronounce whether the Army had a role to play in an election or not.
But in a two-hour judgment delivered by a full panel of the Court of Appeal headed by Justice Abdul Aboki, the court held that the appellants did not prove beyond reasonable doubt that the certificate of the respondent issued by the Polytechnic Ibadan was forged.
The court noted that the issuing institution which was the Polytechnic Ibadan had forwarded a letter stating that the certificate in contention was issued by it.
The court further noted that the appellants failed to provide an evidence to show that the certificate was forged.
Based on that premise, the court dismissed the ground of appeal.
On the issue of striking out the names of Chief of Army Staff and Nigerian Army from the petition by the tribunal, the court held that the tribunal was right as such office and establishment were not recognised under the law to be involved in electoral process.
The court noted that the two parties were struck out because they were not necessary parties and as such their non-joinder in the tribunal would not produce adverse effect on the appellant.
It also held that as far as the election was concerned, the military could only be categorised as agents of INEC.
The court, nevertheless upheld the decision of the tribunal, striking out the names of the Chief of Army Staff and Nigerian Army as parties to the petition.
The court also did not object to the decision of the tribunal refusing jurisdiction to determine whether the military had a role to play in an electoral process.
In the cross appeal brought by PDP and Mr. Fayose on whether APC could file a petition before the tribunal without its governorship candidate, the court held in the affirmative.
Justice Aboki held that the candidate was not a necessary party in the petition on ground that it was the party that sponsored a candidate.
Also on whether an impeachment could qualify as a ground for disqualification in an election, the court held that there was no way an impeachment could constitute a ground for disqualification.
The tribunal had in dismissing APC’s petition on December 19, 2013, held that the witnesses paraded by the petitioner were unable to provide concrete evidence to support the claims of corrupt practices at the polling units.
It also held that the testimonies made by the APC’s witnesses failed to support claims that the election did not comply substantially with the provisions of the Electoral Act.