TRIBUNAL STRIKES OUT PETITION AGAINST SUSWAM

By NBF News
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The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Makurdi, yesterday struck out the petition on certificate forgery filed by the governorship candidate of All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Prof. Daniel Saror against Benue State Governor, Dr. Gabriel Suswam on the ground that it lacked jurisdiction to entertain the petition.

Ruling on the motion brought before it by the lead counsel to Governor Suswam, Domian Dodo (SAN), the Tribunal Chairman, Justice Munir Ladan stated that the tribunal found merit in the argument of the respondent, stressing that issues, which were not within the jurisdiction of the tribunal should not be considered, since it did not have power to entertain it.

The ANPP governorship candidate had in his petition prayed the court to nullify the election of the PDP governor on the ground that Suswam was not qualified to contest the just concluded governoship election due to an alleged certificate forgery as well as the non compliance of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to Electoral Act 2010 as amended during its primaries.

In his motion, Suswam's lawyer, Dodo (SAN) prayed the court to dismiss the petition, saying the tribunal had no jurisdiction to entertain the two grounds brought before it by the petitioner and submitted that the grounds were pre- election matters, which the tribunal had no power to adjudicate on. Ruling on the case, the tribunal Chairman, Justice Ladan granted grounds 4, 5 and 6 of the petitioner for presenting proper articulation of election results of the contestants, competence of the election and non joiner of the Deputy Governor, Chief Steve Lawani in the matter.

But the Judge stated that the tribunal needed not consider the grounds in 4, 5 and 6 to dismiss the subject matter, which he said was not within its jurisdiction to determine.'Election Petition Tribunal has no power to decide on matters arising before election. The petitioner lacks the locus standi to dispute the internal affairs of a party in which he is not party to.' Ladan, who dismissed the petition, further explained that the election tribunal was not a court of criminal jurisdiction, stressing that entertaining certificate forgery matter at the tribunal would not only amount to embarking on fruitless journey but also to arrogating to itself power of jurisdiction in which it did not have power to exercise on.

In their separate responses, counsel to the five respondents, Governor Suswam, PDP, INEC, WAEC and Police in persons of Tony Ijohor (SAN), Solomon Akuma (SAN), Steve Nwosu and P.O. Augba respectively praised the decision of the tribunal and submitted that the early ruling on the case and its subsequent dismissal would allow the governor to focus on act of governance.

Also while speaking with newsmen at the end of the sitting, the petitioner's counsel, Chris Orpin, commended the decision of the tribunal but submitted that he would convey the ruling to his client who wouldl decide the next line of action.