From Pwanagba Agabus, Jos
The National Assembly Elections Petition Tribunal sitting in Jos, the Plateau State capital, on Monday affirmed the election of Hon. Solomon Maren of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) representing Mangu/Bokkos constituency in the House of Representatives.
It would be recalled that Danjuma Haruna of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) who contested with Maren in the 2019 general elections, lost to him but when he was not satisfied with the election results, he headed for the tribunal to challenge the verdict.
Haruna had told the tribunal during its proceedings that the election of Maren was invalid without substantial compliance with the electoral act and was characterized by manifold irregularities.
He had argued that there was a serious and weighty electoral offence of polling violence which qualified Maren’s election to be quashed.
Delivering the judgement having reviewed all the submissions by the lawyers to the two parties, Chairman of the three-man tribunal, Justice Theophilus N. Ezeugwu, ruled that the petition must fail because the petitioners had been unable to prove their case beyond every reasonable doubt, adding that they could not prove any of the reliefs sought in their petition.
According to the tribunal, the burden of proof always lies with the party who asserts to prove his case. “He who asserts must prove. The burden of proof still lies with the petitioners.”
Justice Ezeugwu said, “The totality of evidence before us shows that the petitioners are not entitled to enjoy any of the reliefs sought and therefore the petition has failed woefully.”
In the case of Johnbull Shekarau of the PDP who was challenging the validity of the election of Komsol Longap Alphonsus of the APC, the tribunal dismissed the petition as the petitioners failed to establish their case. They both contested the Shendam/Mikang/Quaan Pan federal constituency in the state.
The petitioners had approached the tribunal, urging it to quash the election of Alphonsus for lack of merits and non-compliance with the rules and regulation of electoral process. They accused the respondent of not possessing valid primary school certificate but the respondent provided unbeatable witnesses including the head teacher of his school.
In the course of the proceedings, relevant education authorities like the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) and Plateau State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) were subpoenaed to testify before the tribunal.
The tribunal noted that the issue of forgery has become a notorious issue before the tribunal.
The issue of over-voting, vote buying, ballot box snatching and violence which was said to have marred the election could not be proved by the petitioners, according to the tribunal, and therefore the petition was dismissed.
All the counsel to the two parties commended the tribunal chairman for the industry put in place in delivering the judgment.