A massive protest erupted in Jos, the Plateau State capital, yesterday after the Appeal Court, Abuja nullified the election of Governor Caleb Mutfwang, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and named his All Progressives Congress (APC) rival, Dr Nentawe Yilwatda Goshwe, as the winner of the poll.
In a unanimous decision, the three-man appellate tribunal sacked Mutfwang over PDP’s lack of structure and non-adherence to court orders.
Before the judgement which lasted till noon security had been beefed off in all the strategic locations in Jos, the state capital, by stern looking security personnel.
At the premises of the Court of Appeal, Jos Division, an armoured personnel carrier (APC) was stationed to prevent a possible breakdown of law and order.
The panel held that Muftwang was not validly sponsored by the PDP; that his nomination contravenes Section 285(2) of the constitution.
According to the court, the appeal brought by Goshwe of the APC succeeds as the issue of qualification was both a pre-and post-election matter under Section 177(c) of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999, and Section 80 and 82 of the Electoral Act, 2022.
The court set aside the judgement of the Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal for being highly inconsistent and breaching fair hearing by relying on expunged witnesses’ statements to refuse Goshwe’s appeal.
The panel ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw the certificate of return issued to Muftwang and issue a fresh one to Goshwe
As soon as the news of the judgement filtered into the state, tension enveloped Jos as people were seen in groups discussing the development.
In Jos South local government area (LGA), PDP youths in their large numbers and their supporters thronged Gyel roundabout to register their displeasure over the judgement.
Similar protests were also recorded in Angwan Rukuba junction in Jos North and Riyom LGAs of the state capital.
Speaking to our correspondent during the protest, a youth leader from Mangu LGA, Pankyes Yamsat, said they have decided to come out to protest the judgement of the Appeal Court which sacked their governor Caleb Mutfwang.
He said the people of the state voted Mutfwang but that their mandate had been truncated at the Appeal Court.
“The mandate of the people of Plateau has been stolen and we call on the Supreme Court to ensure justice is served by reversing the judgement of the Appeal Court for peace to reign in the state.
It is a temporary setback – Governor Mutfwang
Meanwhile, Mutfwang has described the verdict of the Appeal Court that nullified his election as a temporary setback that will not deter him from repositioning the state on the path of unity, peace and progress.
He expressed strong optimism that the mandate overwhelmingly given to him by the people of Plateau State would be restored, as he had instructed his legal team to file an appeal at the Supreme Court.
Mutfwang, in a statement signed by the director of press and public affairs, Gyang Bere, yesterday admonished citizens of the state and supporters of the PDP to remain calm and assured them that as long as God remains on the throne, the mandate of the people will be preserved and protected.
He reiterated his commitment to the rule of law and assured the people that there is light at the end of the tunnel, as he has unwavering faith in the judiciary and the constitution of Nigeria.
But the Plateau State chapter of the APC, in a statement issued in Jos by the party state publicity secretary, Sylvanus Namng, called on all its members to celebrate the victory with utmost modesty and decorum.
The statement called on security agencies in the state to be on red alert and vigilant to avert any acts of breakdown of law and order while he commended the Appeal Court judges for their meticulous, impartial and very professional handling of the Appeal.
Meanwhile, the PDP faulted the Appeal Court verdict.
The party national publicity secretary, Hon Debo Ologunagba, said as much as the party has not been properly briefed on the judgement by the lawyers, it had forewarned several times about the antics of the Court of Appeal with regards to electoral cases from Plateau State.
The party spokesman gave assurance that the party will make an appropriate reaction soon, adding that it still has a right of appeal at the Supreme Court.
He recalled that besides statements issued by the party expressing concern over the appeal court, the party’s national chairman, Ambassador Illiya Damagum, had also warned against the judiciary being hijacked by the APC cabal.
He said the party had sensed ulterior motives following the conflicting judgements by the court in the state’s National Assembly elections.
In one of such press conferences, Ologunagba who called for the disbanding of the Plateau State Election Appeal Court Panel over varying and conflicting judgments, said the court is “undermining democracy and the expressed will of the people of Plateau State.”
He said, “This frightening pattern by the Plateau Appeal Court Panel constitutes a clear and present danger to our democratic process, national peace and stability; a bad precedent for judicial mischief and particularly a recipe for anarchy, chaos and breakdown of Law and Order in the already tensed Plateau State.”
LEADERSHIP reports that the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on Friday sacked Governor Yusuf of NNPP and declared Nasiru Gawuna of the APC as the rightful winner of the March 18 governorship election in Kano.