The Court of Appeal in Abuja has nullified the election of Governor Caleb Mutfwang of Plateau State. In a unanimous decision, the three-member panel ruled that Mutfwang was not validly sponsored by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), based on a legal challenge brought by Nentawe Goshwe of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The court’s ruling was anchored on the PDP’s failure to comply with a directive from the Plateau State High Court in Jos, which ordered the party to conduct valid ward, local government, and state congresses before nominating its candidates for elective positions. This non-compliance was deemed a breach of the law.
The appellate court, therefore, overturned the judgement of the Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, which had been challenged for being inconsistent and violating the principles of fair hearing. The Tribunal had previously dismissed Goshwe’s appeal by relying on expunged witness statements.
As a result of this ruling, the Appeal Court ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw the certificate of return issued to Mutfwang and instead issue a new one to APC’s Nentawe Goshwe.
This ruling by the Appeal Court also affected several lawmakers elected on the PDP platform, who had to vacate their seats following the judgement. However, in the case of Governor Mutfwang, he will remain in office until the Supreme Court makes a final ruling if he decides to appeal the decision. This distinction is due to the Supreme Court being the final arbiter for governorship and presidential elections, whereas the Court of Appeal is the final arbiter for legislative elections.
The annulment of Governor Mutfwang’s election by the Court of Appeal marks a significant development in Plateau State’s political landscape, highlighting the importance of adherence to legal procedures in the nomination of candidates for elections. The decision underscores the role of the judiciary in ensuring the sanctity and legality of electoral processes in Nigeria.