Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Abuja division of the Court of Appeal will tomorrow (Monday) deliver it’s verdict in the appeal brought by the All Progressive Congress (APC) seeking to reverse the judgment of the Taraba State Governorship Election Tribunal, which affirmed the re-election of Governor Darius Ishaku of the Peoples Democratic Party in the March 9, 2019 governorship poll in the state.
Already, there is mounting tension in the state among supporters of the APC and the Peoples Democratic Party, ahead of the judgment.
This is demonstrated by their large turn up in Abuja where the judgment will be delivered.
A three-man panel of the tribunal led by Justice M.O. Adewara had in a unanimous judgment of September 20, 2019, dismissed the petition by the APC and it’s 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, 2019 governorship election, the Federal High Court sitting in Jalingo, Taraba State, 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 Court of Appeal and Supreme Court respectively.
Following the above development, the petitioners had on July 10, 2019, withdrew the petition on ground of the disqualification of Abubakar Danladi by the Supreme Court and the petition was accordingly disimissed.
However, on July 13, 2019, 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, 2019 granted the petitioners motion, set aside the order of dismissal of the petition and same was relisted, thereafter, Danladi ceased to participate in the proceedings.
Delivering it’s judgment after close of hearing, the tribunal held that a Federal High Court in Taraba State had given a judgment on March 6, 2019, 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.
Besides, the tribunal explained further that even if the petition was to be considered on the merits, the petitioners failed to lead 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 All Progressive Congress, without it’s candidate, Danladi, approached the Court of Appeal marked CA/A/EPT/934/2019, on October 3, 2019, in petition No: EPT/TR/GOV/01/2019, 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 as same is frivolous and unmeriterious.
The party in it’s brief of argument filed by it’s counsel, Chief Solo Akuma (SAN) noted that the appeal by the APC did not include the name of it’s candidate, Danladi as a person who would be directly affected by the outcome of the appeal.
Citing several case laws, Akuma argued technically, 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 it’s decision wherein it held thus: “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 tomorrow after the adoption of briefs of arguments by counsel to parties in the appeal.