The election of the Taraba State House of Assembly Speaker Abel Peter Diah was Wednesday nullified by the Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Jalingo – the Taraba State capital.
Speaker Diah is representing Mbamga constituency of Sadauna local government council in the State House of Assembly.
The tribunal set aside the election, which was held on April 11, 2015 and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to set aside the Certificate of Return it issued the Speaker as winner of the poll.
It ordered rerun in eight polling units in 90 days. The petitioner’s lead counsel, Festus Idepefo, submitted that the election was conducted in nine of the 48 polling units of Bamga constituency in “non compliance with the Electoral Act 2010” which states that an election must start with accreditation.
The respondent filed a counter defense, challenging that the conduct of the election in six of the polling units that gave his opponent majority of the votes were not credible.
The tribunal ruled that the APC candidate presented both oral and documentary evidences to support his allegation in eight of the nine polling units it claimed the election was characterised by irregularities.
But, that Speaker presented only documentary evidences (without witnesses) to substantiate his claim, which did not to meet the burden of proof, as enshrined in the Electoral Act.
Justice AM Ali, a member of the tribunal panel who read the judgment, thus, declared the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Emmanuel Bongo winner of the election.
INEC had declared the Speaker winner with 8,272 votes and Bongo as runner up with 6,691 votes.
But the tribunal upturned the results. According to the judgment, the APC candidate polled 6,695 votes while the PDP candidate (Speaker) scored only 5,651 votes. The APC candidate (Bongo) now leads with 1,044 votes.
The tribunal, however, declared the election as “inconclusive.” It ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a rerun in eight polling units of Mbamga constituency in 90 days, on grounds that the difference in votes between Bongo and Diah is not up to the number of voters defranchised in the affected areas. Taraba State Chairman of APC Jika Hassan Ardo hailed the ruling.
“We shall continue to present evidences with facts and figures to show that APC is more popular in Taraba state. The people of Mbamga constituency should remain calm and wait patiently for the supplementary election,” Ardo said.
It has been a huge setback for the PDP in Taraba state, having lost four of its major election cases. The PDP has lost the Central senatorial seat to the APC, and had its northern senatorial election nullified. The tribunal also nullified its House of Representatives election for Sardauna/Bali/Kurmi federal constituency and now the Speakers election in Mbanga, ordering the INEC to conduct rerun in 90 days.