The Supreme Court, on Tuesday, deferred judgment on a suit filed by Governor Caleb Mutfwang of Plateau State, seeking the restoration of his mandate to lead the state.
The five-member panel of justices, led by John Okoro, reserved the judgment after hearing arguments from lawyers representing both parties.
The apex court is expected to deliver its verdict on the matter before January 16, the expiration date of the appeal.
Governor Mutfwang, representing the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), emerged victorious with 525,299 votes in the March 18, 2023, governorship poll, defeating the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Mr. Nentawe Yilwatda, who secured 481,370 votes. The Plateau State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal in Jos initially upheld Mutfwang’s election. Still, the Court of Appeal in Abuja overturned the victory, leading to the governor’s appeal at the Supreme Court.
Mutfwang urged the apex court to nullify the Court of Appeal’s judgment, citing the lack of fair hearing for himself and the PDP. In his appeal, filed by a team of eight Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) led by Chief Kanu Agabi, he argued that the lower court did not consider his side of the case.
The Court of Appeal, led by Justice Elfrieda Williams-Dawodu, had on November 19, 2023, nullified Mutfwang’s election, instructing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue a Certificate of Return to Nentawe Goshwe of the APC. The court deemed Goshwe’s appeal valid, considering the qualification issue as both a pre and post-election matter under relevant constitutional and electoral act provisions.
Displeased with the judgment, the governor raised eight grounds of appeal before the Supreme Court, contending that the issue of nomination and sponsorship, the central point of the APC’s petition, is a pre-election matter within the internal affairs of the PDP. Mutfwang argued that the lower court lacked jurisdiction, and the evidence presented, including EXHIBITS U and 2RA3, supported the PDP’s compliance with relevant regulations.
The governor asserted that the first and second respondents failed to meet the burden of proof, and the lower court erred in relying heavily on the evidence of certain witnesses. He emphasized the lack of grounds for maintaining an election petition based on disobeying a court order, questioning the credibility of the lower court’s judgment.
The Supreme Court is now tasked with determining the appeal’s validity and addressing the case’s intricacies before the appeal’s expiration date.