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Court nullifies APC governorship primary in Benue

The Appeal Court sitting in Makurdi has nullified the governorship election of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Benue state.

The court also ordered the APC to conduct a fresh primary election in 11 local government areas of the state.

It ruled that the result of the rerun primary should be added to the existing result of the 12 local governments which will determine the nomination of the APC gubernatorial candidate for the forthcoming general election.

Justice Mohammed Danjuma, Justice Abraham Biobelle and Justice Ibrahim Wakali Jauro made up the panel of judges that decided on the case.

Delivering the ruling on behalf of his colleagues, Justice Mohammed Danjuma said the court agreed with the appellant, Professor Terhemba Shija, that there was no valid primary election held on May 27, 2022, by the APC for the nomination of its gubernatorial candidate, which had resulted in Father Alia being declared winner.

Professor Shija was one of the governorship aspirants.

Justice Danjuma said the court came to its conclusion after evaluating evidence submitted by him (the appellant), which, among other things, included the party’s post-primary appeal panel report which had declared the said gubernatorial primary election as “not valid”.

However, the Court agreed with the APC on the rerun primary of June 9, 2022, which took place in 12 local Government areas of the state, ruling that it was “valid”.

The judge said: “Yes, I have seen that APC did not conduct a valid primary election on the 27th of May 2022 reasons the appeal panel ordered a fresh election that was conducted on the 9th of June 2022 in some local governments.

“In the interest of justice, I can not allow those voters in the remaining eleven local governments to be disenfranchised, therefore, APC should go back and conduct an election in eleven local governments within 14 days and INEC should recognize the winner after adding both earlier primary result.”

The 11 councils where the court ordered a fresh primary election are: Gboko, Gwer- East, Gwer-West, Guma, Katsina, Logo Makurdi, Otukpo, Ukum, Tarka and Vandeikya.

The Local Government areas where a rerun was held on June 9, 2022, are: Buruku, Kwande, Agatu, Konshisha, Ogbadibo, Ushongo, Oju Okpokwu, Ado, Ohimini Obi and Apa.

The court also ordered that the results of the June 9 primary and the one to be conducted afresh should be added up and the contestant with the highest number of votes be declared the winner.

In the same vein, the Court of Appeal delivered judgment on the case filed by another governorship aspirant, Senator Barnabas Gemade.

It upheld the judgement of the Federal High Court which earlier dismissed the suit against Father Alia for being statute barred.

Similarly, The court dismissed the appeal filed by the PDP against APC House of Assembly candidates and House of Representatives candidates.

It ruled that the PDP had no “locus standi whatsoever” to meddle in the affairs of the APC or any other political party.

Reacting to the ruling, the APC governorship candidate, Reverend Father Hyacinth Alia appealed to his supporters to remain calm, adding that he is bound to respect the judgment of the court.

“We are still going to be on the ballot. We are all in this for the greater (good) of our state and (by the Grace) of God,” he said.

Also reacting, the state chairman of the party, Austin Agada admonished the supporters to remain calm, saying the people had already spoken. “We believe that the voice of the people is the voice of God,” he added.

Writing by Abdullahi Lamino; Editing by Tony Okerafor