Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja and George Okoh in Makurdi
The Appeal Court sitting in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, yesterday upheld the election of immediate past Senate President, Senator David Mark.
Justice Obande Ogbuinya while delivering the lead judgement on the appeal filed by All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Daniel Onje, upheld the decision of the lower tribunal that the appeal lacked merit and was incompetent and statute barred. He therefore dismissed it.
Two other justices in the panel, Justices Oyebisi Omoleye and Ifeoma Jombo unanimously agreed with the judgment.
Before the judgment, Mark’s counsel, Ken Ikonne, counsel to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Johnson Usman and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) counsel, Chris Alechenu, had told the court that Section 285 (5) of the 1999 Constitution provided that the day of declaration of an election result should be included in the days allowed for the filing of a petition before a court and urged the appellate court to dismiss the appeal for non-compliance and award cost against the appellant.
Onjeh had dragged Mark of PDP to Appeal Court after the tribunal struck out his petition against Mark’s election in Benue South senatorial district election for lack of merit and for filing the petition behind the stipulated time.
Onjeh had approached the tribunal, alleging irregularities in the February 20, 2016 rerun election in Benue South.
In his reaction yesterday, Mark said he had forgiven his opponent, Onjeh and all who “conspired” against him during the rerun election.
“I’m glad that the final Verdict of the Appeal Court vindicates me and truly reaffirmed my victory freely given to me by the people of Benue South senatorial zone. I’m happy that the judiciary stood on the side of justice and respected the wishes of Benue South people.
“For me, I have forgiven all those especially some of my close friends who conspired against me. For to err is human, to forgive is divine. I will continue to serve my people honestly and diligently. Whatever makes for the good of my people will always be my guide.
“I whole heartedly appreciate the support and solidarity of Idoma nation towards me. In spite of the unwarranted provocation and intimidation especially during the rerun election, you came out in large numbers to vote for me. I’m truly grateful,” Mark said.
He called on his constituents to join hands with him in the task of developing and empowering the people.