By Andrew Huboshi, Jos
The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Jos, Plateau State on Wednesday upheld the reelection of Governor Simon Lalong of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and dismissed the petition of the candidate of the main opposition party Peoples Democratic Party’s Sen. Jeremiah Useni.
The Tribunal also said the the Governor Lalong was qualified to contest the election, saying he has been using Sule Bako Lalong right from his secondary school days up to his NYSC days, but decided to get an affidavit and did a change of name in 1998, therefore did not give a false name as claimed by the petitioners.
It would be recalled that Useni, had filled a petition to challenged the reelection of Governor Simon Lalong of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), claiming that there were votes cancellation in the PDP dominated areas, over voting in some areas and that Lalong was not qualified to contest the election.
Delivering her judgment, Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Halima Salman, said the petitioners have been unable to prove their petition beyond reasonable doubt, and therefore dismissed the petition.
Salman said based on its findings, the Governor did not give false information about his academic qualifications.
On the issue of over voting, the Tribunal said only 13 polling units we discovered and results for both APC and PDP in the polling units were all cancelled.
She added that a total of 4, 065 votes were cancelled for the APC which if deducted from its initial result declared by INEC(595, 582) will be left with 591517 votes.
According to her, a total of 1, 139 votes were cancelled for the PDP, which if deducted from its initial result declared by INEC (546, 813) will be left with 545, 374 votes.
She however said, 21 witnesses were expunged because they were not tender within stipulated time.
“In all, the petitioner’s petition has been dismissed because they have not been able to fully prove their petition, and their to bear the legislative cost”, she stressed.
Reacting to the judgment, Counsel to PDP, Edward Pwajok (SAN), said, “It a long journey, this is just the first bus stop and you heard us drew the attention of the Tribunal by the Supreme Court, which they did not address in this judgment.
Pwajok said, “I’m not blaming them, because there was some logistic issue and the judgment of the Supreme Court was not made available to them, we are sure if it was given to them it would have affected the way the Tribunal’s judgment.
“We also want to say that Gen. Useni remains confident in the judiciary, thank God we have other higher levels.
According to him, “From the judgment itself, it has already formulate many grounds for appeal, because in some cases we found out that some of the findings by the Tribunal were not in think with what they reached.
“For instance the issue of the qualification of the second respondent (Lalong), the found the fact that he gave false information on oath in his form CF001, we would have expected that haven found that he gave false information on oath, the next thing is to make the consequential declaration, but that was not done.
“Certainly is an issue that you know we must look at, its not just the personal comfort we the lawyers, or the first petitioner himself, we are talking about the mandate of the people of Plateau State, is a very serious issue.
“I there say, that the reason why people generally didn’t celebrate their independence yesterday here, they thought today they will come and celebrate their independence.
“All I can tell the people of Plateau State is, the celebration has just been postponed, because we are going to continue to work to ensure, that the mandate that was freely given to the PDP and Useni would be retrieved rightfully”, he assured.
Also speaking, Counsel to the Governor Lalong, Pius Akubo (SAN) said, “the Tribunal commendably dealt with all issues canversed by the parties, including the qualification of the second respondent.
“The Tribunal considered all interlocutory matters raised by respective Counsels.
“On our part we are satisfied, the judgment is in our favour”, he stressed.
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