In a judgment on Tuesday evening, a three-member panel of the appellate court, affirmed the September 11 judgment by the National and State House of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal, which voided the return of the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Napoleon Bali by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the winner of the election held February 25.
The Court of Appeal agreed with the tribunal that Bali was not validly nominated by the PDP and held that an invalidly sponsored candidate cannot attract valid votes.
The judgment was on the appeal filed by Bali against the tribunal’s decision, which held among others, that the votes attracted by the PDP candidate were wasted votes.
The Court of Appeal nullified the participation of Bali and his party in the election on the grounds that they refused to comply with an earlier order of competent jurisdiction.
In the lead judgment, Justice Elfreda Williams-Dawodu declared as unlawful and wasted the votes cast for PDP in the election and declared Lalong l, who came second as the winner with lawful majority votes.
Justice Williams-Dawodu held that the PDP and Bali could not have validly participated in the election having failed to obey the judgment of a Plateau High Court that the party should conduct lawful elections for the purpose of having officers for Wards, Local Governments and State Council.
The Plateau High Court had in 2022 ordered the PDP to conduct elections for the selection of officers for Wards, Local Governments and the State Chapter of the party which was not complied with.
Justice Williams-Dawodu held that disobedience and disregard of a clear and lawful order of the court was fatal because the PDP hurriedly put an illegal Caretaker Committee in place in utter confrontation to the court judgment.
She further held that PDP did not sponsor any candidate for the Plateau South Senatorial District, because it was not qualified to stand for any election as of February 25, 2023.
Justice Williams-Dawodu said: “As of February 25, PDP was on a faulty background at the nomination of a candidate for any election. It has no legal foundation upon which its candidate nomination can stand.
“A positive order of Court must be complied with unless such order is voided and set aside by a higher Court. In the instant case, the lawful existing and subsisting Court order was that PDP should conduct elections in line with provisions of the law to have officers at Wards, Local Governments and State Councils but the party opted to go against the order.
“I cannot but agree totally with the judgment of the Plateau State National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal which, in its judgment delivered on September 11, 2023, nullified the participation of PDP in the February 25 National Assembly Election”.
Other members of the panel – Justices Mohammed Mustapha and Okon Abang – agreed with the lead judgment.