Supreme Court affirms Benue governor’s election, reserves decision on Ebonyi

The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the election of Benue State Governor Hyacinth Alia.

Mr Alia, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), defeated Titus Uba, his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rival at the 18 March 2023 poll.

Mr Uba, who was speaker of the Benue State House Assembly when he vied to rule the state, accused Nigeria’s electoral commission, INEC, and Mr Alia of electoral malpractices during the election.

After he lost his cases seeking to nullify Mr Alia’s election at the Benue State Election Petition Tribunal and the Court of Appeal, Mr Uba approached the Supreme Court where he sought to invalidate the polls.

However, a five-member panel of the Supreme Court led by John Okoro said issues raised in the appeal did not qualify as post-election matters.

Mr Uba had challenged the candidacy of Governor Alia, who ditched his cassock as a Roman Catholic priest for the APC governorship ticket.

In resolving the dispute, the Supreme Court prevailed on the lawyer to the PDP and Mr Titus, Sebastine Hon, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) to withdraw the appeal, paving the way for its dismissal on Monday.

Governor Alia, his deputy, Sam Ode, and a retinue of state officials were at the Supreme Court to witness Monday’s proceedings.

A three-member panel of the court led by Onyekachi Otisi had upheld Mr Alia’s election after dismissing the appeal filed by Mr Uba and his party.

In September, the election petition tribunal, the first court of instance to sit over the disputes arising from the election, had held that it lacked jurisdiction to entertain the issues relating mostly to pre-election issues raised by Mr Uba in his petition.

Dissatisfied with the decision, the PDP candidate appealed, seeking to overturn Mr Alia’s victory.

In its unanimous verdict, the Court of Appeal resolved all the issues in favour of the governor, including the alleged non-qualification of Mr Alia and his deputy, Mr Ode, to contest the March 2023 election.

Ms Otisi said the PDP governorship candidate failed to prove the allegation of forgery of INEC’s documents levelled against Mr Ode.

Also on Monday, the Supreme Court heard an appeal filed by the PDP and its candidate in Ebonyi State, Chukwuma Ifeanyi, against Governor Francis Nwifuru’s election.

The court reserved judgement on the appeal until a date to be communicated to the parties.

A three-member panel of the Court of Appeal in Lagos led by Jummai Sankey had upheld the election of Mr Nwifuru as the duly elected governor of Ebonyi State.

In its unanimous decision, the appellate court dismissed the appeal filed by Mr Odii of the PDP.

The panel also resolved all the five issues raised against the appellant and dismissed the appeal for lacking in merit.