In a significant development today, a five-member panel led by Justice Emmanuel Agim reversed the decision of the appellate court, deeming it perverse. The judgment revolved around the primary election that produced Caleb Manasseh Mutfwang as governor, with the Supreme Court ruling that the lower court had no jurisdiction over this matter.
Recall that On November 19, the court of appeal in Abuja sacked Mutfwang as governor of the state. The appellate court held that the PDP violated the court order and ordered that a valid congress be conducted in the 17 Local Government Areas of Plateau. The court said the party conducted congress in only five LGAs of the state “which amounted to a nullity.”
The apex court pointed out that the validity of nomination and sponsorship is not a valid ground to void an election.
He held that the Court of Appeal lacked jurisdiction to entertain it, besides the issue of sponsorship has elapsed long ago, adding that the petitioners not being members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PD) have no locus to challenge the party’s primary election.
On the issue of whether the order of the Plateau State High Court can affect the National Executive Committee (NEC), the apex court held that the appellate court was wrong in holding that the order affects the NEC.
Justice Agim further stated that the issue of primary is an internal matters of political parties which both the Tribunal and Court of Appeal lacked jurisdiction.
Agim also pointed out that contrary to the claim of the petitioners and the judgment of the appellate court the order of the Plateau High Court was not disobeyed by the PDP as evidence showed that a fresh primary was conducted.
He warned the legal profession to wake up or else it would render itself irrelevant to the society.
The Presiding Justice, John Okoro also lamented that a lot of people have suffered because of the wrongful judgments of the appellate court which had sacked several legislators who won elections under the platform of the PDP.
In her submission, Justice Helen Ogunwumiju also berated the appellate court for going into the issue of nomination and sponsorship despite several decisions of the apex court to the effect that another political party cannot challenge the primary election of another.
Caleb Manasseh Mutfwang, representing the PDP, originally secured 525,299 votes in the March 18 governorship poll in Plateau State, defeating Nentawe Yilwatda of the All Progressives Congress who garnered 481,370 votes. The Plateau State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal upheld Mutfwang’s victory, but the Court of Appeal overturned it on November 19, 2023. Mutfwang promptly filed an appeal at the Supreme Court to challenge this decision, which has now resulted in his reinstatement as the duly elected Governor of Plateau State.