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Tribunal reserves judgment in Tarzoor’s suit against Gov Ortom

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The Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, sitting in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, has reserved judgment in the petition by Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP’s) candidate in the April 11 election, Prince Terhemen Tarzoor, challenging the declaration of the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Samuel Ortom, as winner of the poll.

The tribunal reached the decision after the parties adopted the final written addresses and argued the preliminary objection by Ortom, APC and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the first, second and third respondents.

Chief Niyi Akintola (SAN), who led a team of lawyers for the first respondent, urged the tribunal to dismiss the petitioner’s case because “it is incompetent”.

The eminent lawyer averred that Tarzoor’s petition was not signed by a legal representative.

He described Tarzoor as a meddlesome interloper in APC’s affairs because he was not an aspirant on the party’s platform but only relied on hearsay to conclude that Ortom was not a member of the APC and was not sponsored by the party.

Akintola said the petitioner failed to prove his case, adding that there was no countable relief before the tribunal that was grantable in the matter.

The lawyer urged the tribunal to dismiss same because the petition lacked merit, was frivolous and abandoned.

In moving his motion on notice, which sought the dismissal of the petition, APC’s lead counsel, Sabastine Hon, averred that the petitioner was caught by the principle of Res Judicata (a matter already adjudicated by a competent court and may, therefore, may not be pursued by the same parties) and the reason for the preliminary objection.

Hon said it was a settled law that what affects a political party affects its candidate.

The eminent lawyer noted that since the PDP’s suit at the Federal High Court in Makurdi Judicial Division, which was questioning the qualification of Ortom to contest the election was struck out, Tarzoor, a candidate of the PDP, could not return with the same reliefs before the tribunal.

He cited the case of Okorocha v PDP, decided by the Supreme Court, 2014 7NWLR Part 1406 P. 213, particularly at P. 262, wherein the apex court held that candidates and political parties are inseparable.

Addressing the tribunal on the substantive petition, Hon submitted that first principal witness (PW1) called by the petitioner, irreparably destroyed the case when he admitted that INEC, the only eyewitness to APC congress, left a day before the final day of the rescheduled APC governorship congress held last December.

The lawyer said the avalanche evidence before the tribunal showed that APC conducted its congress on December 11.

He added that since Tarzoor was not and is not a member of the APC and did not contest governorship election on the platform of the APC, he lacked the locu standi to invoke the provisions of the Electoral Act.

Hon urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition.

Counsel to INEC, Prof Tony Ijohor, urged the court to dismiss the petition.

The law expert argued that since the petitioner was not praying for a fresh election and had not contested the result of the poll, his petition was incompetent.

He said the tribunal lacked the jurisdiction to grant the reliefs the petitioner was sought therein.

According to him, there are no facts to support grounds two and three of the petition, hence the petitioner cannot seek solace under the canopy of severance of pleadings without a formal application.

Prof Ijohor cited Gundiri v Nyako, 2NWLR Part 1931 P. 211 at 284 and 285, decided by the Supreme Court.

The law expert urged the court to invoke the presumption regularity with respect to the nomination of Ortom by virtue of sections 167 and 168 of the Evidence Ac.

He urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition and hold that Ortom is a member of the APC, sponsored by the party and returned winner, having scored majority of lawful votes in the April 11 poll.

But Tarzoor’s lawyers, led by Adebayo Adenipekun, submitted that the petitioner never took action against the first respondent.

Adenipekun said it was a settled law that the appropriate place to ventilate the issue of qualification is the election petitions tribunal.

The lawyer said the first respondent was not sponsored by the APC and was not a member of the party at the time of the election.

He said the APC did not hold a valid governorship primary, adding that the court should allow his petition.

The tribunal’s chairman Justice Elizabeth Karatu reserved judgment to a date to be communicated to the parties.

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POLITICS

PDP Crisis: Dele Momodu warns Wike to apply brakes before it’s too late

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Former presidential aspirant of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dele Momodu has urged Governor Nyesom Wike of River State to thread softly before it becomes too late. 

The remark is coming amid internal wrangling between the Rivers governor and the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Abubakar Atiku. 

“Many politicians survive only on power. My Brother, I love you. But someone must be able to tell you the truth. No General fights on too many fronts. Please, apply the brakes, before it is too late,” he said. 

Momodu made the plea in a statement titled, “My Kobo Advice to Governor Nyesom Wike,” which he issued via his verified Instagram handle on Thursday.

He said, “My dear Brother, good evening. I have watched you in recent months with trepidation. I’m scared about your inability to comprehend the country called Nigeria. You must have underrated how the owners of Nigeria operate. 

“I studied the biography of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. I was an insider in the June 12 1993 crisis, and a veritable witness to the tribulations of my great mentor, Chief Moshood Abiola. Closer home, you must have seen how your predecessor, Dr. Peter Odili, was stopped in his tracks in 2007.

“You’re certainly one of Nigeria’s best performing Governors, if not the best. Personally, I’m very proud of your uncommon achievements. I know you are very angry. It is your right to be. But I’m begging you in the name of God not to take decisions based on anger… Nigeria has been very kind to you. 

“Rivers State has been extremely generous to you. GOD has blessed you beyond imagination. You have such a beautiful family. Your people love you stupendously for services delivered to them. PDP has been your solid platform. 

“You should never destroy a bridge after crossing the river. Even if you no longer need the bridge, what of your friends and family? I pray you kill this excessive and perpetual ANGER. It is getting out of hand. Most people around you will keep quiet for fear of losing patronage,” he said. 

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POLITICS

Muslim-Muslim Ticket: Catholics want Lalong suspended

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Some members of the Roman Catholic Church in Nigeria have called for the suspension of Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State from the church over his reference to the pope while defending his acceptance to serve as the Director General (DG) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign Council.

Lalong, on Wednesday, told correspondents at the presidential villa, Abuja, that as a Catholic and papal knight, the pope had not told him that it was wrong for him to lead the Muslim-Muslim presidential campaign team.

Following the comment, aggrieved Catholic faithful criticised the governor for bringing the church into disrepute and dragging the Holy Father into the murky politics of Nigeria.

But Lalong said his reference to Pope Francis on his appointment was out of reverence and not disregard for the Holy Father, Catholic Church or Christianity.

He said it was unfortunate that part of the interview had been excised and used by politicians for propaganda and misinformation about his personality, faith and political persuasion.

The President of the Concerned Catholics in Nigeria (CCN), Dr Ben Amodu, at a press conference yesterday in Abuja, said Lalong must tender an apology for maligning the name of the pope and the entire church.

He also said the leadership of the Catholic community in Nigeria must ensure that the governor was made to atone for his blasphemous statement about the pope and the Catholic Church in public.

Amodu said, “The fact that Governor Simon Bako Lalong, a practicing Catholic who supposedly knows that the Catholic Church is not involved in partisan politics, but still went ahead to insinuate that the pope is in support of his decision smacks a mockery of the revered Catholic Church in Nigeria and around the world.

“The Concerned Catholics in Nigeria condemn such despicable conduct as it is not reflective of the stance of the pope and the Catholic Church in Nigeria and around the world concerning the political permutations in Nigeria.” 

‘My reference to pope mark of reverence’

Governor Lalong, in a statement yesterday by his media aide, said it was unfortunate that part of his remarks had been used by politicians for propaganda and misinformation about his personality, faith and political persuasion.

He said, “My reference to the Holy Father, the Pope, was to emphasise that as a Christian born and raised in the Catholic faith, accepting the assignment given to me by my party, the APC, of which I am a founding member, does not in any way remove my faith in Jesus Christ or my commitment to the church in Nigeria and universally.

“Those who know me can attest to my respect for the church, Christianity and spiritual fathers of all denominations. They know my modest contribution to the growth of the church in Plateau State, Northern Nigeria and Nigeria at large and can testify to it.”

The governor further said he had high regard for Christians and church authority and would continue to work hard in promoting the interests of Christians and adherents of other religions based on love, justice, equity and fairness.w

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POLITICS

PDP primary: Gov Wike drags Atiku, Tambuwa to court, demands removal from INEC list

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The Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike has sued the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, the party and the Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal over the conduct of party’s primary held May 29, 2022.

During the primary election held in Abuja, the Sokoto Governor, while addressing delegates, asked them to vote for him but later declared that he stepped down for the former Vice President, Atiku.

The election had Atiku poll 371 votes as winner, while Wike and Bukola Saraki garnered 237 and 70 votes, respectively.

Wike and his loyalists have been in a face-off with Atiku’s camp since the conclusion of the PDP’s primary election.

Following the prolonged crisis rocking the party, Wike and a PDP chieftain, Newgent Ekamon have now dragged Atiku, Tambuwal and the PDP to court in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/782/2022.

In the originating summons, the PDP is listed as the first respondent, while the Independent National Electoral Commission is the 2nd respondent. Tambuwal and Atiku are listed as the 3rd and 4th respondents, respectively.

Among other issues listed, Wike and Ekamon asked the court to order the INEC to reject or remove Atiku from “its list of candidates in the 2023 presidential election.”

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