On Sunday, Plateau State Governor Caleb Mutfwang’s election was invalidated by the Court of Appeal in Abuja. The three-judge panel of the court unanimously decided that Mutfwang was not the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) legitimate nominee for the March 18 governor’s race.
According to Vanguard, all votes credited to Mutfwang and the PDP were deemed ineffective. Under the direction of Justice Elfrieda Williams-Dawodu, the panel ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to remove Mutfwang’s Certificate of Return and install the candidate who received the second-highest number of legitimate votes as the next governor.
The appeal stemmed from the challenge filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) gubernatorial candidate, Mr. Nentawe Goshwe, against Mutfwang’s victory, despite INEC initially declaring Mutfwang winner with 525,299 votes against Goshwe’s 481,370 votes.
Goshwe contested that the PDP lacked the political structure to validly nominate a candidate for the election and highlighted alleged electoral irregularities. The Tribunal had earlier dismissed Goshwe’s petition, leading him to challenge the ruling at the appellate court.
During the appeal, Goshwe argued that Mutfwang wasn’t qualified due to inadequate sponsorship by a political party, per section 177 (C) of the 1999 Constitution. In contrast, Mutfwang’s legal team defended his candidacy, stating that nomination and sponsorship were internal party matters not subject to court interference.
The appellate court, comprising Justices R. Irele-Ifijeh, Muhammed Mustapha, and Okon Abang, sided with Goshwe, nullifying Mutfwang’s election. The court had previously removed a Senator and three House of Representatives members from the PDP in the state for non-compliance with a court order mandating congresses in the 17 Local Government Areas. This ruling considered the excluded LGAs during the purported party congress, deeming the lawmakers’ election victories as based on wasted votes.