The Court of Appeal panel sitting in Makurdi on the appeal by the All Progressive Congress (APC) and it’s candidate, Emmanuel Jime challenging the decision of the State governorship election tribunal that upheld the election of Governor Samuel Ortom, has been relocated to Abuja were it is scheduled to give it’s judgment tomorrow (Thursday).
Jime and the APC are jointly contesting the unanimous judgment of the governorship tribunal which dismissed their appeal for lacking in merit.
In the dismissed petition, the petitioners had questioned Ortom’s victory on grounds that the election conducted on March 9th and the supplementary election held on 23rd 2019 were marred by irregularities and not in compliance with the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.
Jime further alleged that the Governor was not duly elected by lawful votes, maintaining that he(Jime) scored the highest number of valid votes and as such, should be declared winner of the election or in the alternative, order be made for fresh election.
On his part, Governor Ortom, through his legal team anchored by Chief Sebastian Hon (SAN) stated that the election was conducted in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act 2010 as amended, adding that non substantial compliance did not affect the result of the election.
He also, averred that even if deductions are made as pleaded by the petitioners, the margin of lead was high and as such, the petition should be strick out in its entirety.
During the hearing of the petition, Jime called 59 witnesses, Ortom called only one while the electoral empire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC did not call any witness.
However, the tribunal in it’s judgment delivered by the panel Chairman, Justice Henry Olusiyi, held that the Petitioner’s witness statements were contradictory, unreliable and not credible.
Justice Olusiyi added that their statements are incompetent frowning at their inability to identify documents and link them to the case which amounted to dumping the materials on the tribunal.
He also, held that the petitioners failed to prove allegation of over voting, noting voters’ register and not the smarter remains the valid method to ascertain the number of registered voters in an elegant.
Disastified with the judgment, Jime and his political party (APC) approached the Makurdi division of the Court of Appeal seeking an order setting aside the judgment of the tribunal.
In their notice of appeal filed by their lead counsel, Yusuf Ali (SAN), the appellants argued that the tribunal erred in law and occasion a miscarriage of Justice in arriving in it’s final decision and conclusion dismissing their petition.
On their parts, the three respondents, Governor Ortom’s, PDP and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had in their separate briefs of arguments urged the intermediate appellate court to dismissed the appeal and affirm the judgment of the tribunal.
After parties in the appeal had argued and adopted their briefs of arguments for and against the petition, the Court of Appeal sitting in Makurdi had reserved judgment in the appeal.
However, confusion crept in when parties in the petition received two different hearing notices one from the Court of Appeal Makurdi division and another from the Abuja division of the court, informing them of the judgment date fixed for Thursday, November 21, 2019.
For instance, in the early hours of Tuesday, the legal team to Governor Ortom received notice from the Makurdi division of the Court of Appeal informing them of the judgment date by the Court in Makurdi.
But in a contradictory development, the Court of Appeal, Abuja division, also sent hearing notice to Ortom’s legal team informing them that the judgment will be delivered in Abuja on same date.
Reacting to the development, the Benue State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), described the development as disturbing and unacceptable.
In a statement signed by the state publicity secretary, Bemgba Iortyom, the party totally rejected the move, describing it as “an attempt at subverting the course of justice”.
The Benue PDP frowned at the “disturbing and unacceptable development”, noting, “there are no reasons given for the shift in venue of the hearing of this Appeal from Makurdi to Abuja”.
The PDP alleged that, “Emmanuel Jime has been visiting top national leaders of his party to enlist their support towards subverting the course of justice by pressuring the appellate court to set aside the judgement of the Benue Governorship Election Petition Tribunal which was in favour of Gov. Ortom and PDP”.
The party insisted that the earlier notice of the Court of Appeal, Makurdi Division served to Governor Ortom and PDP in the appeal by Jime and APC be upheld and the appeal heard in Makurdi.