Benue guber: Appeal Court affirms Gov Ortom’s election

• Fines APC, Jime N150, 000

The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on Thursday affirmed the election of Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State.

The appellate court held in a judgement delivered yesterday that Orton was duly elected and returned in the 2019 governorship election conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and dismissed the appeal filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate in the poll, Emmanuel Jime, for lacking in merit.

In a unanimous judgment, delivered by Justice Fred Oho, the court also resolved all the four issues raised against the appellants and awarded the sum of N150,000 fine against the governorship APC and its governorship candidate.

It would be recalled that Governor Ortom contested for re-election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) after defecting from the APC.

The Court of Appeal had earlier reserved judgement in the appeal.

The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Makurdi had on 7th October 2019, delivered judgement affirming the election of Governor Ortom as the duly elected governor of the state.

Dissatisfied by the ruling of the Tribunal, the APC candidate, Emmanuel Jime, approached the appellate court, urging it to set aside the decision of the Tribunal.

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Counsel to Governor Ortom and PDP had on Tuesday, 19th November, received a notice of hearing from the Court of Appeal, Makurdi Division, informing them that the court would hear the appeal in Makurdi on Thursday, 21st November 2019.

Surprisingly, the Court of Appeal, Abuja division also sent a notice of appeal, same day, informing the legal team of the governor and the PDP to proceed to Abuja, for a hearing slated for Thursday, 21st November.

At the hearing in Abuja last week, Counsel to Jime and APC, Yusuf Alli (SAN), maintained that the election which brought Ortom as Governor did not comply with the provisions of the law.

He also argued that the card readers deployed by INEC were not used in some areas and prayed the appeal panel to upturn the decision of the Tribunal.

In their separate arguments in support of their briefs of appeal, Counsel to Ortom, Sebastian Hon (SAN); that of INEC, Offiong Offiong (SAN) and Chris Uche (SAN) of the PDP, urged the appeal panel to, not only dismiss the appeal, but also award cost to Jime and APC.

The trio argued that the Appellants failed to provide witnesses “both in quantity and in quality”, at the trial court, to substantiate the claim that there were irregularities in the conduct of the poll.

The counsel maintained that the issue of card readers, which the Appellants solely relied on, had been settled in various judgements by the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

On the issue of noncompliance with the rules guiding the conduct of elections, the counsels to the Respondents argued that, mere guidelines or election manuals from INEC could not have nullified the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), adding that the Appellants did not in any way, cite any section of the Electoral Act or the 1999 constitution that was breached during the conduct of the election.

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