The Court of Appeal, in Abuja, on Friday affirmed the election of Hon. Philip Agbese of the All Progressives Congress (APC), as the Member representing Ado/Ogbadibo/Okpokwu Federal Constituency of Benue State.
Agbese is the Deputy Spokesperson of the 10th House of Representatives.
In a unanimous decision, the three-member panel of Justices led by Justice Onyekachi Aja Otisi, dismissed the appeal filed by Aida Nath Ogwuche of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), for “lacking in merit”.
The Court also awarded cost N300, 000 against the appellants to be paid to each of the respondents.
It would be recalled that, Ms. Ogwuche and the PDP filed a petition at the National and State Assembly Election Petition Tribunal for Benue State, challenging the declaration of Agbese on the grounds of non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022.
She alleged that, she was unlawfully excluded from the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which failed to comply with the judgement of the Supreme Court that confirmed her as the PDP candidate and not Francis Ottah Agbo.
In a unanimous judgment delivered on September 9, 2023, the tribunal in judgment delivered by Justice Emeka Ezedi dismissed the petition for being “grossly incompetent”.
He held that unlawful exclusion is not a ground for questioning the outcome of an election under the extant Electoral Act.
Dissatisfied with the judgment, Ogwuche and the PDP approached the Court of Appeal.
In its judgment, the Court of Appeal agreed with the tribunal that unlawful exclusion is no longer “a ground for challenging an election”.
It held that even the unlawful exclusion complained of could only be an issue where the logo or symbol of a political party is missing from the ballot paper.
It noted that Ms. Ogwuche, under cross examination, admitted that the logo of the PDP was on the ballot paper and she even voted on election day.
The appellate court held that by virtue of Section 42(1) of the Electoral Act 2022, names of candidates are not included on the ballot paper, but party logo and symbol.
It held that non-compliance with the order of Supreme Court did not affect the PDP, as the party’s logo was on the ballot paper.
It also agreed with the tribunal that the matter is a pre-election matter which the appellants would have approached the Federal High Court and not the tribunal.
The Appellant Court therefore dismissed the appeal, for lacking in merit.