The Court of Appeal in Abuja has nullified the election of Governor Caleb Mutfwang of Plateau State, ruling that he was not validly nominated and sponsored by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The three-member panel of Justices declared that all votes credited to Mutfwang and the PDP in the March 18 gubernatorial contest were considered wasted.
In a unanimous decision led by Justice Elfrieda Williams-Dawodu, the appellate court ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw Mutfwang’s Certificate of Return. Instead, the candidate with the second-highest lawful votes from the election is directed to be sworn in as the governor of the state.
The judgment stems from an appeal filed by Nentawe Goshwe, the governorship candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC), challenging Mutfwang’s victory. Goshwe contested that the PDP lacked a political structure in the state and, therefore, couldn’t validly nominate a candidate.
Despite the initial dismissal of Goshwe’s petition by the Plateau State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, he persisted in his claims, alleging over-voting and non-compliance with electoral laws. The appellate court, in its Sunday ruling, upheld Goshwe’s appeal, nullifying Mutfwang’s election.
Governor Mutfwang’s legal team, led by Chief Kanu Agabi, argued that the nomination and sponsorship of a candidate are internal matters of a political party, outside the court’s jurisdiction. They urged the court to dismiss the appeal, a plea that was not upheld by the appellate court.
This decision by the same panel that previously sacked a Senator and three House of Representatives members in Plateau State on November 7 further adds to the political upheaval in the region. The earlier decision was based on the PDP’s failure to comply with a 2022 court order, directing the party to conduct congresses in all 17 Local Government Areas in the state. The court found evidence that 12 LGAs were excluded in the purported congress, rendering the elected representatives invalid candidates.