The Supreme Court on Friday affirmed the victory of Gov. Bassey Otu as the governor of Cross River State in the 2023 gubernatorial election.
The Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) and its governorship candidate Sen. Sandy Onor challenged the membership of Otu, in the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The Court of Appeal, Calabar Judicial Division, had dismissed the appeal filed by the PDP governorship candidate and Onor against Otu.
Onor had approached both the tribunal and appellate court, insisting that Otu must be disqualified from the race for allegedly holding dual citizenship, certificate forgery and for not being a member of the APC as of the time of the election.
But the lower courts dismissed the PDP petitions, agreeing with the governor’s submission that the PDP cannot challenge the governor on the grounds of party sponsorship and nomination because they were not aspirants during the APC governorship primaries.
In its lead judgement that was delivered by Justice Helen Ogunwumiju, the apex court dismissed an appeal the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its candidate, Prof. Sandy Onor, filed to challenge the return of Otu of the All Progressives Congress, APC, as winner of the governorship poll that was held in the state on March 18, 2023.
The Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision by a five-member panel led by Justice Inyang Okoro, held that the appeal was without merit and amounted to a waste of judicial time.
It stressed that the appellants failed to establish their claim that Governor Otu was bereft of the requisite educational qualifications.
The Supreme Court held that the appeal contained pre-election issues that had become statute-barred.
“The Supreme Court will not subvert the wishes of the people on inconsequential issues that are against the settled principles of law,” Justice Ogunwumiju held.
It will be recalled that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, declared Mr Otu the winner of the governorship election.
The commission said he polled 258,619 votes to defeat the PDP candidate, Onor, who scored 179,636.
However, dissatisfied with the outcome of the poll, the PDP and its candidate filed a petition to nullify it.
The petitioners, among other things, alleged that Governor Otu was not educated up to school certificate level, insisting that there were discrepancies in the certificate he submitted to INEC.
In a judgement delivered on September 26, 2023, the Cross River State Governorship Election Tribunal dismissed the case.
The verdict was upheld by the Court of Appeal, which affirmed Otu’s election victory.
While affirming the concurrent verdicts of the lower court, the Supreme Court noted that it was not the case of the appellants that Governor Otu forged his certificates