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David Mark survives as Appeal Court sets aside tribunal verdict

Posted by From MARIAM ALESHINLOYE-AGBOOLA, Jos and JACOB EDI, Abuja on 2008/07/18 | Views: 2466 |

David Mark survives as Appeal Court sets aside tribunal verdict


There were scenes of wild jubilation in Abuja, Jos and parts of Benue State yesterday, as senators, colleagues, friends and associates toasted to the Appeal Court verdict that upheld the election of Senate President David Mark, upturning the earlier verdict of the Benue election petition tribunal that annulled Senator Mark’s election.

There were scenes of wild jubilation in Abuja, Jos and parts of Benue State yesterday, as senators, colleagues, friends and associates toasted to the Appeal Court verdict that upheld the election of Senate President David Mark, upturning the earlier verdict of the Benue election petition tribunal that annulled Senator Mark’s election.

Similar scene was replicated in Osogbo and many parts of Osun state as the state electoral petition tribunal also turned in a favourable verdict for Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola.

Senate President, David Mark clinched the victory to retain his seat as Senator on Tuesday, as the Court of Appeal sitting in Jos set aside the judgment of the lower tribunal in Benue State, which annulled the election of the Benue central senatorial district election.

Setting aside the decision of the lower tribunal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa whose over two-hour judgment had the backing of three other justices of the court ruled that an electoral officer had no right to cancel an election already conducted, pointing out that his job was to collate and announce results.

She said after looking at the practice direction and manual guiding the duties of electoral officer, the court found that the electoral officer, having received results signed by all the political parties at the ward and local government levels, could only collate and announce them. The judge stressed that the electoral officer had no right under the law to reverse the results except by the court of law. Justice Bulkachuwa made the pronouncement in respect of two local governments, Agatu and Opokwu, out of the nine that made up the senatorial district which had their results cancelled. She also held that the lower tribunal erred when it apportioned blame over an issue it did not investigate or make findings.

The respondent at the lower court, David Mark had raised the issue of election results tampered with before the tribunal delivered its judgment, but the matter was not entertained on the ground that the argument had been concluded and final briefs already filed. But in the judgment, the election tribunal apportioned blame for such falsification to Senator David Mark, alleging that he stood to gain from it rather than the petitioner.

While pointing out that the tribunal was right to have refused the application of the counsel to David Mark, the Appeal Court, however, ruled it should not have referred to it in its judgment when it was not in possession of the facts surrounding the matter.
However, while ruling on the competence of the lower tribunal to hear the case, as submitted by the appellant in his application, Justice Bulkachuwa said the lower tribunal was properly constituted and was therefore competent to hear the case. She stated that the constitution made provision for five members to constitute the tribunal with at least three present at every sitting.

The judge stated that at every sitting of the Benue electoral tribunal there was at least four members present, adding that when a member was removed he was immediately replaced by another judge.
On whether it was technically right for the tribunal to hear the case, Justice Bulkachuwa ruled that the court was not dealing with technicalities but was determining the case on its merit.

After the judgment, there was jubilation within the court premises and outside by Mark’s supporters who had mobilized themselves from Benue State and Abuja to the Appeal Court to witness the verdict. Neither Senator Mark nor Alhaji Usman Abubakar, the senatorial seat contender was in court.
Following the judgment, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said the verdict would “certainly further strengthen the rule of law and democracy in Nigeria.”

PDP National Publicity Secretary, Professor Ahmed Rufai in a terse statement urged Senator Mark to continue the good works he started as president of the Senate.
“The party congratulates and urges the Senate president to consolidate on the good work he started in the Senate, which endeared him to the hearts of most Nigerians. The patriotic zeal and maturity with which he had been handling the affairs of the Senate should be maintained.

“The PDP wants him to join hands with all Senators and patriotic Nigerians in order to ensure that President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s commitment to the transformation of Nigeria to a greater nation in Africa and indeed the world succeeds,” the statement said.

In another reaction, the Benue State Governor, Hon. Gabriel Suswam expressed delight at the judgment.
Suswam said: “The judicial pronouncement upholding Senator Mark’s election is a clear indication that the judiciary is truly the beacon of hope for the growth, strength and survival of Nigeria’s democracy.
“Senator Mark’s victory is not only for Benue south senatorial district but also for Benue State and indeed all democrats across the country as it affords the Senate of the Federal of Nigeria and indeed the National Assembly.”

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.