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Benue governorship: Court nullifies candidature of SDP’s Hwande

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A Federal High Court sitting in Makurdi on Thursday nullified the candidature of Dr. Terungwa Hwande, who is running for the Benue governorship seat on the ticket of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
The court, presided over by Mobolaji Olajuwon, ordered the SDP and the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), to replace Hwande’s name with that of Hingah Biem as the party’s flag bearer.
Olajuwon also ordered Hwande to immediately stop parading himself as the governorship candidate of SDP in the state.
According to her, both the party and Hwande, who are the first and third defendants in the case filed by Biem, contradicted each other when the former averred that Hwande emerged as its governorship candidate in the primaries held on Oct. 1s, 2018, while the later claimed that the said primaries were inconclusive.
She explained that evidence before the court showed that Hwande was not a member of SDP, was not screened, and did not obtain expression of interest and nomination forms of the party, before the said primaries.
She pointed out that his affidavit showed that he resigned his membership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on Oct. 4, 2018.
Olajuwon further noted that the expression of interest and nominations forms of Hwande presented to the court showed that he swore to an oath before the Commissioner of Oaths on Nov. 1, 2018, while the primaries were held on Oct. 1.
She said that the reasons adduced by the SDP leadership to substitute the name of Hingah Biem, after he won the governorship primaries, were not cogent and advised political parties to always uphold the rule of law and abide by their own constitutions.
She further declared that the decision of SDP to forward the name of Hwande to INEC as its governorship candidate was a violation of article 16(1 and 2), of the SDP constitution,which the party itself was bound to.
The Judge further ordered SDP and Hwande to pay the sum of 100,000 to the plaintiff as cost of litigation.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), reports that Biem, the plaintiff, had dragged the SDP, INEC and Hwande before the Federal High Court, Makurdi, challenging the wrongful substitution of his name with that of Hwande, by the party, which also forwarded Hwande’s name to INEC.
Counsel to the plaintiff, Mr Oscar Aorabee, told the court that his client, after participating in the Oct. 1 SDP governorship direct primaries, was declared winner of the polls by the Dr. Salisu Mohammend-led governorship electoral committee.
He further averred that the same SDP wrongly substituted his name on Nov. 6, 2018 and replaced it with Hwande, as its Benue governorship candidate.
Aorabee, in his final submissions, sought for 10 reliefs among which were an order compelling SDP to forward the name of Mr Biem to INEC as its candidate in 2019 Benue governorship elections.
He also prayed the court to order INEC to recognize the plaintiff as the governorship candidate of the SDP in the coming elections, and to also refund the cost of filing the suit.
On his part, counsel to the 1st defendant (SDP), Mr Adeyemi Ogundiran, said that Hwande won its governorship primaries in Benue State with a total number of 50,000 votes, while Mr Biem polled 29,000 votes.
Ogundiran said that the primaries was conducted in 23 local governments and insisted that the party had powers to substitute any candidate where it became necessary.
Also in his defense, counsel to the 3rd defendant (Hwande), Mr Terlumum Tombowua, averred that his client was validly nominated by the party as its governorship candidate for the forthcoming general elections, by the SDP.
Tombowua, through his client’s affidavit, explained that Hwande was nominated after the rescheduled primaries, following the inconclusive one held on Oct. 1, 2018.
He told the court that Hwande resigned his membership of PDP on Oct. 4, and also submitted his SDP membership card which showed that he was registered in August 2018. (NAN)

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