The National and State Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Kaduna, on Wednesday, nullified the election of Mrs Comfort Amwe of the Peoples’ Democratic Party as member representing Sanga Constituency in the Kaduna State House of Assembly.
The tribunal equally ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to issue Certificate of Return to Mr Haliru Dangana of the All Progressives Congress who had the second highest vote in the April 11, election.
Dangana hinged his argument on the grounds that Amwe was not a candidate in the election, as she was neither sponsored by the PDP nor had her name published in the list of contestants in the said election by INEC.
Joined in the petition were the PDP and INEC as second and third respondents.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Amwe’s name was not published by INEC in deference to an exparte order issued by Justice M.A Bello, of Kaduna State High Court on Dec. 19, 2014, restraining PDP and INEC from fielding her as a candidate in the election, pending determination of the case.
The court order was issued as a result of the fall out of the PDP primaries.
Counsel for the petitioner, Mr. Fred Odigi, asked the tribunal to determine whether Amwe was eligible to contest based on the court order; whether she was a lawful candidate in the election, and if votes allocated to her were lawful.
In his submissions, counsel for the first respondent, Mr Gideon Didam argued that Awme was a lawful candidate in the election and was returned winner by INEC.
Didam argued that the court order which the petitioner hinged his argument on expired seven days after it was issued.
On his part, counsel for the PDP, Mr. K. A. Hamma, argued that the first respondents was its lawful candidate in the election which she participated and won.
According to him, Amwe was not liable to the erroneous omission of her name in the list of candidates for the election.
INEC admitted omitting the first respondents name from its published register of candidates and blamed it on administrative error.
In his judgment, Chairman of the three-man panel, Justice Abdulhamid Abdullahi, upheld the petitioners ground that the first respondent was not a lawful candidate in the election.
According to him, since the name of the first respondent was not published in the list of candidates by INEC, it meant that she was not among the contestants.
“There was no evidence before the tribunal indicating that the court order was vacated or set aside by any court of law, and ‘court order’ did not represent a name of candidate.
“It is our conclusion therefore, that as of the time of the election, the first and second respondents were not party to the election.
“As such, the votes allocated to the first respondent by the third respondents were unlawful and invalid, therefore, making the petitioner, who scored the second highest lawful votes the winner of the election.”
Abdulahi, therefore directed INEC to issue Dangana a certificate of return as the winner of the April 11, election, with 18,880 votes over Labour Party’s candidate.
In his reaction, Odogi, counsel for the petitioner, described the judgment as a restoration of hope in the judiciary and thanked the tribunal for upholding justice.
On his part, Dangana thanked the tribunal for restoring his mandate.
Meanwhile, Didam said his client will appeal against the ruling.