From Uche Nnorom, Makurdi
The Court of Appeal sitting in Makurdi, Benue State, yesterday, upheld the decision of State/National Election Petition Tribunal which dismissed the petition of former Benue Deputy Governor Steven Lawani against the election of Senator Abba Moro of Benue South Senatorial District.
Recall that Chief Steven Lawani of the All Progressives Congress, APC, petitioned the lower court alleging that the election of Sen. Moro, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP was marred by irregularities but the tribunal dismissed the petition for failing to prove that the election did not comply with the Electoral Act.
The Court of Appeal in the judgment delivered by Hon. Justice Jumai Sankey, upheld the decision of the lower court, stating that the claim of manipulation and rigging during the election as alleged by Chief Lawani could not be proved.
The Appeal Court also awarded a punitive cost of N200,000 against Chief Lawani.
Speaking to newsmen after the verdict, Sen. Moro’s lead counsel, Ken Ikonne said Chief Lawani’s appeal was thrown out because it was predicated on grounds that are not permissible by Section 138(1) of the Electoral Act.
“After examining the totality of the grounds and the law, the court came to the view that the two(2)grounds on which the petition was predicated were not grounds permissible by law.
“So, since the grounds were defective, the grounds were struck out and since there only two grounds, nothing else could sustain the petition. And so on that threshold, the court affirmed the view of the lower court for striking out the entirety of the petition for incompetence.
“What the petitioner did was to intertwine the permissible grounds and then it will now be the burden of the tribunal to sift questions of fact from questions of law. No judicial panel has that time, especially in a time-bound election petition,” Ikonne said.
Reacting to the Judgement, Comrade Moro said the Appeal Court’s judgement has once again confirmed that his election into the Red Chamber of the National Assembly was a collective decision of the good people of Benue South.
In a statement issued from his media office on Tuesday shortly after the court’s verdict, Senator Moro saluted the good people of Benue South, who stood by him during the legal battle.
He words, “No doubt, democracy and the people have won again as the legal tape has been exhausted.
“This judgement by the Appeal Court has further confirmed that power truly belongs to God and no one can outsmart God, who made heaven his dwelling place and the earth his footstool.
“The verdict has finally laid to rest the claim and hearsay in the camp of the opposition that the last election was manipulated.
“The victories at both the Tribunal and Appeal Court revalidated the mandate given to me by the people of Benue South and a true reflection of the wish of the people.”