Darius Dickson Ishaku Wins Taraba Governorship State Election Appeal In Court

Published 3 weeks ago by: Adegbenga Ayinla
at 05:10 PM, 18/11/2019 (3 weeks ago)

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The Abuja division of the Court of Appeal on Monday affirmed the judgment of the Taraba State Governorship Election Tribunal which affirmed the re-election of Governor Darius Ishaku of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the March 9 governorship election in the state.
A three-man panel of the Tribunal led by Justice M O Adewara had in a unanimous judgment of September 20 dismissed the petition by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate, Abubakar Danladi, on the grounds that the petitioners failed to prove their claims that the election was marred by irregularities and substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act
In affirming the judgment of the Tribunal, the five-man panel of the Court of Appeal led by Justice C N Uwa held that the appellant had no candidate in the March 9 election in Taraba State by virtue of the disqualification of its candidate, Abubakar Danladi, by the Jalingo division of the Federal High Court on March 6.
Before the judgment, the appellant court had dismissed the preliminary objections filed by the three respondents against the appeal for lacking in merit.
But delivering judgment on the main appeal, the appellate court held that the APC had no candidate in the March 9 governorship election given the judgment of the Federal High Court sitting in Jalingo, Taraba State, which disqualified it’s candidate, Abubakar Sani Danladi, and equally restrained his political party, the APC, from fielding him as its governorship candidate.

That having failed to overturn the order of the Federal High Court that disqualified him at the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, respectively, Danlandi himself withdrew his participation at the Tribunal.
Quote
“The first petitioner, having withdrawn from the Tribunal by virtue of his disqualification, the three reliefs he sought were no longer grantable as they stand abandoned by his withdrawal,”
the court held.
The court further held that “the judgment of the Federal High Court remained binding on all parties having not been set aside by the Court of Appeal.
Quote
“The judgment of the Federal High Court having not been upturned took effect on March 6, 2019. It is errenous to hold that the disqualification took effect in July.”
On the issue of stay of execution of the order of the Federal High Court by the Court of Appeal, the court held that the stay did not overrule the judgment of the Federal High Court and that of the Supreme Court.
Quote
“A disqualified candidate cannot be said to have participated in an election. Section 141 of the Electoral Act prohibits the court from declaring a party a winner of an election in which he has not fully participated,”
it was stated.

On the issue of substitution of Danlandi with his deputy, the court held that “a disqualified candidate cannot be substituted long after an election. A disqualified party in an election has no candidate and cannot claim votes cast as the votes all amounted to wasted votes.
Quote
“By section 285 (13) of the 1999 constitution, a deputy candidate cannot be substituted for a principal candidate. The proposed deputy governor was only a nominee of the principal candidate after the primary election. The deputy governor sunk with the disqualified candidate.
“Substitution is not allowed where there is an incompetent candidate. When the nomination of a party is invalid, the party has no candidate.
“The law does not allow a political party to challenge an election which it did not participate.”

The court also held that the appellant failed to prove allegations of over-voting by not tendering relevant electoral documents, including voters registrar, statement of results, among others to demonstrate and prove the alleged over-voting.
Quote
“Rather than tendering voters registrar and other relevant documents, the appellant relied on Smart Card Readers at the Tribunal,” it was held.
“I agree with the counsel to the 2nd respondent, Chief Solo Akuma, SAN, that no evidence was led to show were over-voting occurred. The appellant failed completely in proving over-voting.
“I hold that the appellant has no candidate in the March 9 governorship election in Taraba State since it did not sponsor a competent candidate.
“I hold that the appeal is unmeriterious and is hereby dismissed. The judgment of the Tribunal is affirmed. Parties are to bear their cost.”

Meantime, the Tribunal dismissed the cross-appeal filed by Governor Ishaku for lacking in merit.
A three-man panel of the Tribunal led by Justice M.O. Adewara had in a unanimous judgment of September 20 dismissed the petition by the APC and its candidate, Abubakar Danladi, on the grounds that the petitioners failed to prove their claims that the election was marred by irregularities and substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act.
The Tribunal further held that Danladi was not qualified to contest the March 9 governorship election.
It would be recalled that before the March 9 governorship election, the Federal High Court sitting in Jalingo had disqualfied Danladi and equally restrained his political party, the APC, from fielding him as a governorship candidate.
Attempts by Danladi to overturn the order of the Federal High Court that disqualified him were unsuccessful at both the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.
Following the above development, the petitioners had on July 10 withdrawn the petition on the ground of the disqualification of Danladi by the Supreme Court. The petition was accordingly disimissed.
However, on July 13, the petitioners filed a motion and prayed for an order setting aside the order of dismissal and asked that the petition be relisted.
The Tribunal on August 9 granted the petitioners motion, set aside the order of dismissal of the petition, relisting it. But thereafter, Danladi ceased to participate in the proceedings.
Delivering its judgment after close of hearing, the Tribunal held that a Federal High Court in Taraba State had given a judgment on March 6, in a suit marked FHC/JAL/CS/01/2019, disqualifying Danladi from contesting the election.
It noted that the affirmation of the judgment by the Supreme Court implied that the APC had no valid candidate in the election.
The Tribunal further explained further that even if the petition was to be considered on its merits, the petitioners failed to show sufficient evidence to establish their claims that the Governor was not validly elected by a majority of lawful votes.
Dissatisfied with the judgment of the Tribunal, the APC, without its candidate, Danladi, approached the Court of Appeal on October 3 for an order setting aside the decision of the Tribunal.
Meantime, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has urged the Court of Appeal to dismiss the appeal with punitive cost, calling it frivolous and unmeriterious.
The party in its brief of argument filed by its counsel, Chief Solo Akuma, SAN, noted that the appeal by the APC did not include the name of its candidate, Danladi as a person who would be directly affected by the outcome of the appeal.
Citing several case laws, Akuma argued that a party to a suit is not allowed to unilaterally alter a case as constituted from the trial court and that names of parties must be maintained on appeal except as may be ordered by the court.
He submitted that the unilateral alteration of the parties in the petition, as shown on the face of the notice of appeal, without the name of Danladi, who was the first petitioner at the Tribunal, renders the said notice of appeal incompetent and liable to be struck out.
Akuma specifically drew the attention of the Court of Appeal to its decision wherein it held thus:
Quote
“It is now trite law that an appellant or a party seeking to appeal as an interested party cannot rearrange or reconstitute the parties to an action as constituted in the lower court at appellate court. The parties on record at the lower court must be retained at appellate level…the structure of the parties cannot by unilaterally changed or amended by any of the parties to an appeal.”
On the merit of the appeal, the PDP urged the Court of Appeal to hold that the appeal lacks merit and should be accordingly struck out.
The Court of Appeal is expected to give judgment today after the adoption of briefs of arguments by counsel to parties in the appeal.

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