Supreme Court affirms Catholic priest Alia’s nomination as Benue APC governorship candidate

Supreme Court affirms Catholic priest Alia’s nomination as Benue APC governorship candidate

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the nomination of Hyacinth Alia as candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for Benue State governorship election.

With the court’s decision, the coast is clear for Mr Alia, a Roman Catholic priest, to participate in the 11 March governorship poll in Benue.

An aspirant for the Benue APC governorship ticket, Terhemba Shija, a professor, had sued Mr Alia, alleging electoral malpractices during the party’s primary election last May.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how the Court of Appeal in Makurdi, Benue State, partially upheld Mr Shiia’s case in its judgement delivered on 23 January.

Instead of nullifying the entire primary election as requested by Mr Shija, the court nullified the outcome of the exercise in 11 out of the 23 local council areas of the state.

The court also ordered a rerun primary election in the affected local governments.

Displeased that the nullification of the primary election was not total, Mr Shjia appealed to the Supreme Court. Mr Alia, also filed a cross-appeal challenging the aspect of the Court of Appeal’s judgement that nullified the results of the primary election in 11 local government areas.

But while waiting for the final decision of the Supreme Court on the matter, the party organised a rerun primary election in the 11 local government areas where the results were nullified, and Mr Alia emerged the winner again.

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But deciding the suit on Thursday, a five-member panel of the Supreme Court led by John Okoro, dismissed the appeal following its withdrawal by Mr Shija.


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Mr Okoro dismissed the appeal for being statute-barred. The cross-appeal by Mr Alia was also withdrawn and dismissed by the court.

The Nigerian law provides that such legal action must be instituted within 14 days after the conduct of a primary election.

The court held that Mr Shija’s suit fell short of the statutory time required to file the suit at the trial court.


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Background

The APC Benue had been embroiled in intraparty squabbles over the party’s governorship ticket.

Mr Shija and a former Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Michael Aondoakaa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), launched multiple legal actions aimed at disqualifying Mr Alia from the race.

Messrs Shija and Aondoakaa litigated their grievances from the APC primary election from the Federal High Court in Makurdi and Abuja through the Court of Appeal in both cities before terminating at the Supreme Court on Thursday.

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Similarly, Barnabas Gemade, a former senator, challenged the priest’s candidacy but the Court of Appeal dismissed the suit for being statute-barred.

Based on Mr Shija’s case, the Court of Appeal in Makurdi had nullified the primary election in 11 local government areas of Benue. The affected local government areas are: Gboko, Gwer-East, Gwer-West, Guma, Katsina, Logo, Makurdi, Otukpo, Ukum, Tarka and Vandeikya.

However, Mr Alia trounced all the aspirants in the rescheduled primary election.


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