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Plateau governorship election: Supreme Court reserves judgment

The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved judgement on a suit filed by Gov. Caleb Mutfwang of Plateau State seeking to restore his mandate to lead the state.

John Okoro who led a five-member panel of justices reserved the judgment after he took arguments from lawyers to both parties in the case.

The apex court is expected to deliver a verdict on the matter before 16 January, when the appeal will expire.
Mutfwang of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had scored 525,299 votes to beat the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Mr Nentawe Yilwatda, who garnered 481,370 votes during the March 18, 2023 governorship poll in the state.

 

The governor’s election was upheld by the Plateau State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal in Jos, the state capital.
However, the Court of Appeal in Abuja overturned the victory, necessitating Mutfwang’s appeal at the supreme court.

Mutfwang had urged the apex court to nullify the judgement of the Court of Appeal, which sacked him from office.

The governor, who made this request in his appeal filed before the apex court by an eight-man team of Senior Advocates of Nigeria(SANs), led by Chief Kanu Agabi, accused the lower court of not giving his and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), fair hearing.


A three-man panel of the Court of Appeal led by Justice Elfrieda Williams-Dawodu had on November 19, 2023 nullified the election of Mutfwang and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue a Certificate of Return to the candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Nentawe Goshwe.

The appellate court held that the appeal brought by Goshwe was valid as the qualification issue was both a pre and post-election matter under Section 177(c) of the Nigerian Constitution and Sections 80 and 82 of the Electoral Act, 2022.

Dissatisfied with the judgment , the governor formulated eight grounds of appeal on why the Supreme Court should validate his election.

He argued that the issue of nomination and sponsorship, which underpinned Ground One of the petition by the APC, is not only a pre-election matter but within the internal affairs of the fourth

Respondent (PDP), and as such the first and second Respondents lacked the locus standi to canvass it.
The appellant also argued that the judgment of the lower court delivered on November 19, 2023 is fatally flawed for want of jurisdiction regarding Section 285(2) of the Constitution (supra).

He insisted that disobedience of court order is not one of the grounds for maintaining an election petition under Section 134 of the Electoral Act (supra), nor is it part of Section 177(c) of the Constitution (supra), let alone disqualifying the appellant from contesting the election.

The governor further maintained that given the overwhelming oral and documentary evidence, including but not limited to EXHIBITS U and 2RA3, the fourth Respondent complied with EXHIBIT G1 by conducting a state congress on September 25, 2021, in Plateau.

He also contended that the evidence of the 16th prosecution witness was thoroughly discredited and controverted, as such, the lower court was wrong to heavily rely on it against him.

“The first and second respondents woefully failed to discharge the requisite burden of proof on them and, as such, not entitled to the reliefs sought in their petition, more so that having impugned the election as invalid for non-compliance, it is absurd of them to lay claim to victory for the same election.

“The lower court was in grave error when it held that the Tribunal was wrong in striking out the offensive paragraphs of appellant’s reply and utilising evidence of PW16, PW24, PW27 and PW28 as a tribunal of first instance.

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EFCC declares Yahaya Bello wanted

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has declared former Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello wanted over alleged fraud.

The EFCC in a statement on its social media handles said Bello is wanted for offences relating to economic and financial crimes to the tune of N80.2 billion.

The EFCC asked anybody with information as to his whereabout to report immediately to the Commission or the nearest Police Station.

The commission wrote: “Former Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, is wanted by the EFCC for offences relating to economic and financial crimes to the tune of N80.2 Billion.

“Anybody with information as to his whereabout should report immediately to the Commission or the nearest Police Station.”

Operatives of the commission had on Wednesday laid siege to the home of Bello in Abuja in a bid to arrest him after obtaining a warrant arrest.

The former governor could not be arrested as he was said to have been whisked away in the official vehicle of the Kogi Governor, Usman Ododo.

Ododo had stormed Bello’s house while the EFCC were laying siege outside the house. He governor was said to have left the premises with with Bello inside his vehicle.

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Court dismisses Fmr Anambra Gov, Obiano’s bid to stop trial in N40bn fraud charges

Justice Inyang Edem Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja has dismissed the application by a former Anambra State Governor, Willie Maduabuchi Obiano, which sought to quash the N40 billion money laundering charges brought against him by the Federal Government.

The Judge, in a ruling delivered on Thursday, faulted and rejected all grounds upon which the application was predicated by Obiano.

The former governor had, among others, prayed the Judge to dismiss the 9-count charges instituted against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on behalf of the Federal Government.

He claimed that there was no connection between the proof of evidence supplied to the court by the EFCC and the accusations against him.

He averred that there was no testimony from any witness indicating that he issued directives for the disbursement of security votes and other funds belonging to the Anambra State Government.

Obiano also claimed that he could not be held accountable for any alleged unlawful actions by officials of the Anambra State Government as there is no concept of vicarious liability in the criminal justice system.

His motion on notice was brought pursuant to Section 6(6)(a) and (b) and Section 36(6)(b) of the 1999 constitution as amended and Section 1(1) & (2), 266, 271(b), 383(4) &492 (3) of the Administration of the Criminal Justice Act 2015.

Among others, Obiano sought “An order of the court quashing the instant charge for it amounts to flagrant abuse of judicial process and a mockery of the criminal Justice

“An order quashing the charge for non-disclosure of a prime facie case being vague and devoid of precision in respect of all the 9 count charges.

“No prima facie case has been disclosed against the defendant in this charge. There is no link between the proof of evidence and the purported allegation made against the defendant in the charge

“No evidence exists from any witness showing that the defendant passed down a directive for the disbursement of security votes and other funds belonging to Anambra State government.

“The defendant cannot be made answerable for any purported unlawful actions of officials of Anambra State government as there is no vicarious liability in our criminal jurisprudence.

“The thinking and conclusion of the prosecution on the counts arose from speculation and suspicions.

“The subject matter of the charge borders on accountability for security vote funds.
The honourable court lacks the requisite jurisdiction to entertain issues on accountability for security vote funds

“There is an appeal filed by the Anambra state government challenging the powers of EFCC to investigate the security vote of Anambra state government.

“The preferment of the entire charge is in bad faith. This honourable court has inherent judicial power to grant all the reliefs sought above.”

But in the ruling, Justice Ekwo held that all the reliefs sought by Obiano are not grantable because they are premature and lacking in merit.

The Judge said there is no way the court would know whether the former governor is linked with the alleged offences or not unless the trial is conducted in line with the provisions of the law.

The former governor is being prosecuted by EFCC on 9-count charges bordering on money laundering to the tune of N40 billion.

Meanwhile, the Judge has fixed June 24, 25, 26 and 27 for full blown trial of the charges.

In the same vein, Justice Ekwo permitted Obiano 60 days to travel abroad for medical treatment.

The Judge ordered that Obiano be made to sign an undertaking to return to the country after the treatment and to deposit his travelling passport within three days of his return to Nigeria.

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Oyebanji, Fayemi, NASS members, APC leaders eulogize Omotosho at commendation service

Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Biodun Oyebanji on Wednesday led former Governor of the state, Dr Kayode Fayemi, National and State Assembly members, members of the State Executive Council, Party leaders and other prominent personalities to pay glowing tributes to the late APC Chairman, Barrister Paul Omotosho at a special commendation service organized by the state government in Ado-Ekiti.

Omotosho, who died on March 5th, after a brief illness, was, until his death, Chairman of the All Progressive Congress, Ekiti State Chapter.

“You will not walk alone. I shall stand by you. The Government and the party will stand by you”, Governor Oyebanji assured the children and wives of the late Omotosho during his emotion – laden speech at the special tribute session held at Adetiloye Hall, Trade Fair Complex, Ado- Ekiti.

The commendation service had in attendance former Governor Kayode Fayemi (who was represented by former Attorney General in the State, Mr Wale Fapounda, SAN; the Deputy Governor, Chief (Mrs.) Monisade Afuye, Speaker, Ekiti State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon Adeoye Aribasoye, and three former deputy Governors- Prof Modupe Adelabu; Surv. Abiodun Aluko and Chief Wole Alabi as well as members of the Ekiti State Caucus in the National Assembly.

Oyebanji described the late Chairman as a committed, loyal, and party leader whose selflessness and sacrifices contributed immensely to the growth and development of the party and the state at large.

The Governor maintained that the late omotosho was a true friend, a burden bearer, confidant and a devoted community leader, adding that his demise has left a great vacuum within the party, the state and the nation at large.

While assuring the family that his government will continue to support them and stand in the gap of their father, the Governor said he is consoled with the fact that the deceased lived a fulfilled life and left an indelible mark in the development of the state.

“To me personally, I have lost a true friend, I’ve lost a confidant, I’ve lost a brother, a burden bearer and a soul mate. The truth of the matter is not how far but how well, Mr. Continuity left at his own time, I believe strongly that it was his own time to go. We don’t like it, and it is painful because death did not give us a chance to even try to save him.

“I know we are not happy about this and it is a trying moment for us as a party, as a state and as a government, but one thing I know is there is God in heaven who sees the affairs of men. To the children, to the family, as long as i am on this seat as the Governor of this state, you will not walk alone. That’s the assurance I am going to give you”. The Governor asserted.

In his on tribute, the immediate past Governor of the state, Dr. Fayemi, whose tribute was read by Barrister Wale Fapounda, described the late Omotosho as a dedicated leader, a unifier, and a pillar of the party in the state.

Dr Fayemi explained that the deceased was a tireless leader and a steadfast supporter of the party’s principle who ensured that under his watch the party achieved significant victories in recent elections and gained the trust of Ekiti people.

While calling on the APC members in the state to remain resolute in making the deceased proud by carrying on with his legacies of integrity, the former Governor maintained that Omotosho’s contributions and sacrifices for the party will never be forgotten.

Other speakers at the evening of tributes include Mrs. Fola Richie, who spoke on behalf of the state executive council members (2010 – 2014), where the late Omotosho served as as State Commissioner; Chief Bayo Idowu, on behalf of Afenifere; Dr Dele Ebunola, who spoke on behalf of Social Democratic Party (SDP); Prof Mobolaji Aluko, on behalf of the state executive council; Hon Sola Elesin, on behalf of APC, Ekiti State chapter; Rt. Hon. Adeoye Aribasoye, on behalf the State House of Assembly, and Senator Yemi Adaramodu, who spoke on behalf of National Assembly members.

Others were Chief Jide Awe, who spoke on behalf of APC elders; Chief (Mrs) Ronke Okusanya, on behalf of Women in Politics; and Mr Ojo Oluwasegun Samuel, who spoke on behalf of local government chairmen.

They all eulogized the late Omotosho as a man of integrity and a truly honest and hard working politician and public servant, who was selfless and result- oriented.

A pall of silence descended on the Adetiloye Hall, venue of the event during the viewing of a documentary detailing the life and times of the late Omotosho was shown the audience. Many wept profusely after the documentary which preceded a short sermon and prayer of the family of the deceased.

Barrister Paul Omotosho who died on March 5th would be buried in his home town, Imesi Ekiti on Friday.

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