The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja has sacked the governor of Plateau State, Caleb Mutfwang. The court, in a unanimous decision by a three-member panel of justices, held that Mutfwang was not validly nominated and sponsored by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to participate in the March 18 gubernatorial election.
The appellate court held that all votes credited to him and the PDP after the election amounted to a waste. The Justice Elfrieda Williams-Dawodu-led panel ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw the Certificate of Return it issued Mutfwang as winner of the governorship poll. It also ordered that the candidate that had the second majority lawful votes should be sworn in as governor.
The case followed an appeal against Muftwang’s election by the governorship candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, Nentawe Goshwe Yilwatda.
INEC had declared that Mutfwang won the gubernatorial contest with 525,299 votes, ahead of Goshwe, who polled 481,370 votes. Dissatisfied with the outcome of the election, Goshwe had approached the Plateau State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal. He contended, among others, that the PDP lacked a political structure in the state and was, therefore, incapable of validly nominating or sponsoring any candidate for the poll. He also argued that the election of Mutfwang was not conducted in compliance with the Electoral Act, insisting that the PDP candidate did not win the majority of lawful votes cast during the election.Mutfwang had, earlier, appealed to people of the state to remain calm in the face of the oncoming ruling. He told supporters and senior government officials who had come to receive him at the Yakubu Gowon Airport in Jos, following his return from a foreign trip: “I was following the judgment while I was away, and I know that Plateau people who actually voted massively for the PDP are not happy on those judgments. “Let me appeal that in a contest, the wind can blow but does not mean it will bring you down. And I want to assure the people of Plateau State that the victory they gave us will be sustained. We have had some setbacks; we will be looking at them, these few days, to see what we will be able to do to remedy such situations.”
He added: “We are on top of the situation, and there is no cause for alarm. Our confidence in the judiciary has not been broken. We have confidence that the judiciary consists of men and women of integrity that will still do what is right when the time comes.”
Meanwhile, some residents of Jos, the Plateau State capital, rejected the judgment of the Court of Appeal that sacked Mutfwang and called for a review. They made the call during a peaceful protest in Jos, yesterday.The residents described the judgment as “injustice”.
Philemon Jangkam, the youth leader of Angwan Rukuba Junction, said: “We started noticing the injustice right from the court of appeal judgments that sacked Isaac Kwallu, Simon Mwadkon and other lawmakers. We the youth of this community are not happy and we will not accept this judgment. We will continue to protest until this judgment and the ones that sacked our National Assembly members are reviewed.”
On his part, Samson Iliya described the judgment as a deliberate subversion of the people’s will, adding that the peaceful protest was to express their displeasure with the judiciary.
He said: “We are out here to express our displeasure over the appeal court judgments on Plateau elections. We call on the NJC to review all the judgments so as to redeem the sinking image of the judiciary. We massively voted for the governor and the sacked lawmakers; they are the choices of the majority of Plateau people and we will not allow the judiciary to decide who should lead us.”
Another youth from Gyero Junction, Pankyes Yanksat, advised Mutfwang to immediately challenge the judgment at the Supreme Court. Yanksat, who expressed optimism that Mutfwang’s mandate would be restored, called on judges at the apex court to set emotions aside and go by merits of the matter.
The sacking of Mutfwang has been met with mixed reactions, with some residents expressing disappointment while others have welcomed the decision. It remains to be seen what the Supreme Court will decide when Mutfwang appeals the judgment.
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