By Seriki Adinoyi in Jos
Dissatisfied with the ruling of the Plateau State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal delivered on October 2nd, 2019, the gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the election, Senator Jeremiah Timbut Useni, has approached the Court of Appeal to challenge the judgment.
This is even as Mr David Parradang, former Comptroller General of Nigerian Immigration Service and PDP senatorial candidate for Plateau Central in the last election has also challenged the judgment of the tribunal that threw out his case.
In a statement signed by Useni’s media consultant, Mr. Yiljap Abraham, he said his legal team, led by Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) and Edward Pwajok (SAN), has filed the notice of appeal and formulated 21 grounds of appeal to overturn the verdict of the tribunal dismissing his petition.
“Currently, the Registry of the tribunal under the leadership of the Secretary is compiling the record of appeal for transmission to the Court of Appeal. This will be completed within 10 days,” the statement added.
Abraham said: “Specifically, General Useni and the PDP are maintaining that Simon Bako Lalong was not qualified in the first place to have contested for election into the office of Governor of Plateau State because he supplied false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in his form CF100.
“The tribunal in its judgment had acknowledged that its findings also pointed to the fact that the information he supplied in that form was false.
“The inescapable conclusion that ought to be reached by the tribunal is that the 2nd Respondent is not qualified to contest election into the office of Governor, instead, the ‘Learned Tribunal’ clearly somersaulted in arriving at its decision which was at odds with its findings and this occasioned a miscarriage of justice.
“In addition, Useni holds that the tribunal should not have relied on the unreported case of Simon Bako Lalong vs. Jeremiah Timbut Useni & three others delivered by the Court of Appeal on 19th August 2019 to expunge the evidence of 20 of his witnesses because he did not list them in his list of witnesses accompanying the petition.
“This is because as at the date when the tribunal delivered its judgment, that particular judgment of the Court of Appeal which Useni had appealed against had been set aside by the Supreme Court on 26th September 2019. The Supreme Court had consequently ordered that the evidence of PW.12 earlier ordered by the Court of Appeal to be expunged be reckoned with by the Tribunal. However, Useni’s counsel said the Tribunal erroneously still relied on the overturned judgment of the Court of Appeal to expunge the evidence of the said Appellants’ witnesses.”
Parradang described the ruling of the tribunal, which relied mainly on technicalities “to deny the people of Plateau Central their mandate” as whimsical.
He said: “You may recall that well over 200,000 voters in the Plateau Central Senatorial Zone went to the polls on 23rd February 2019. During collation of results, we won roundly in Bokkos, Mangu, Pankshin and Kanke, LGA polling the majority of votes in the four local government areas in the senatorial district.
“You may also recall that the results from Kanam LGA were delayed for over 60 hours raising the suspicion of voter fraud to diminish and surpass our 19,000 vote lead over the APC candidate. Alas, on the arrival of the Kanam LGA results, they announced an APC lead of 23,000 votes in one LGA.
“We decided, therefore, to challenge this daylight robbery of the mandate freely given us at the election tribunal. Witnesses were called, documentary evidence tendered, all of which were vigorously, logically and eloquently argued by our lawyers.
“The tribunal panel of three judges discountenanced all these and dismissed our petition. While appreciating the panel for the manner in which they handled the hearing of the petition, their decision to dismiss our petition is bizarre with no correlation at all to the trial proceedings and flow of the trial. Though experienced and learned, we believe that the best of men, even the best of judges is just a man and not all knowledgeable as God.”
He said he was aware that federal might was deployed to the collation centre at Pankshin comprising about 300 riot policemen and soldiers to secure the Returning Officer to announce the candidate of the powers that be as elected and not the people of our zone.
According to him, “We will not give up our place. Our place shall never be with any cold and timid souls who will not know victory and we are certain that we will savour triumph and high achievement reserved for the courageous and valiant.”