A Benue lawmaker identified as Benjamin Nungwa, was on Friday sacked by the Appeal Court in Makurdi after three years of legal battle over a legislative seat in the Benue House of Assembly.
Joseph Boko who contested the APC primary of Kwande West legislative seat in the state house of assembly in April 2015 alongside the Benue lawmaker, dragged Nungwa, the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) and the APC to court after he got dissatisfied with the decision of the Arbitration Panel set up by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party over the issue.
Joseph Boko who stated that the panel which sat in Makurdi never invited him but took decisions from its purported sittings that had adverse effects on him, prayed the court to declare that the panel was not competent to sit since it was not in the first instance, properly constituted.
Boko who also alleged that he was properly nominated as the party’s candidate for the election and prayed the court to order Nungwa to relinquish the seat he was occupying to him, further added that the panel had no chairman and secretary and therefore, did not form a quorum to take decisions. According to him by excluding him from its proceedings, his right of fair hearing was infringed upon.
The appellant also maintained that many weeks after the deadline for substitution of candidates at INEC had already closed, his name was illegally substituted with that of Nungwa. Boko who questioned the name substitution, said;
“After submitting names to the INEC, it is only the candidate himself that can withdraw or it could be withdrawn if he dies; I did not withdraw my name and I am not dead.’
Passing judgement on the case, the Supreme Court overturned the judgement of Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court Makurdi, who affirmed Nungwa as the APC’s candidate and cited the decision of the National Working Committee of the party as the basis.
It was gathered that the Supreme Court expunged all cross appeals and motions that were unnecessary to the case, and transmitted it back to the Appeal Court with a directive for a speedy retrial on merit.
Justice Joseph Ekanem of the Appeal Court who passed the unanimous judgement supported by Presiding Judge, Justice Hannatu Sankey, on Friday in Makurdi, ordered the immediate sack of Nungwa, who was described as “an illegal occupant of the Kwande West legislative seat’’.
The appellate court who resolved three out of five issues brought to it for determination by the appellant in his favour, also ordered the Benue Lawmaker to refund all salaries and allowances earned within the three years he occupied the seat in the Benue House of Assembly and further granted N200,000 costs to the appellant.
The Appeallate Court which also resolved that the appellant was denied fair hearing since he was not invited to appear before the panel, also agreed that the NWC of the All Progressives Congress (APC) that claimed to resolve the disputed Kwande West primary was not competent to handle the crises, hence it was not properly constituted.