The Court of Appeal sitting in Jos has upheld the election of Governor Simon Lalong of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the duly elected governor of Plateau State against the wishes of the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Gen. Jeremiah Useni (rtd).
Useni, through his Lead Counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, had filed a 21-ground appeal against the judgement of the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal delivered on 2 October, 2019 in favour of Governor Lalong.
He pleaded with the Appeal Court to set aside the judgement of the tribunal on logical reasoning that Lalong provided false information to INEC in his form CF001. That Lalong did not comply with the 2010 Electoral Act as amended and that Lalong was not qualified to contest the election which he was returned winner and not on valid votes among other reasons.
Delivering the lead judgement on behalf of the five-man panel, Hon. Justice A.O Otisi acknowledged that Lalong at some point used several names on his certificates but said there is no legislation in Nigeria that restricts an individual to bear certain names throughout his entire life.
Justice Otisi said that the appellant did not allege that the certificates presented by the 2nd respondent (Lalong) are not his own and that he had sworn an affidavit to change his name from Sule Bako Lalong to Simon Bako Lalong.
On the issue of certificate forgery on Form CF001, Justice Otisi said it is a criminal matter that the appellant failed to prove the matter beyond a reasonable doubt.
Justice Otisi said: “Based on logical reasoning and authorities cited in the matter, the issue is hereby resolved against the appellants and in favour of the respondents.
“In conclusion of the matter, all the issues raised in the appeal have been resolved against the appellants and I therefore uphold the judgement of the tribunal delivered on October 2, 2019 and award a cost of N200,000 against the appellants.”
Counsel to Useni, Chief Ozekhome, SAN, who was represented by Edward Gyang Pwajok SAN, rejected the judgement and said they were going to the Supreme Court in Abuja to contest the judgement.
“For the appellants, Senator Gen. Jeremiah Useni and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) believed in the merit of their case and not satisfied with the judgement of the Appeal Court. This is the semi-final match, we are now going for finally at the Supreme Court Abuja.”
Counsel to Simon Lalong, Pius Akubo SAN expressed gratitude in the judgement and said Useni has the constitutional rights to approach the. Supreme Court to seek redress.