The Court of Appeal in Abuja Thursday returned former Cross River State Governor, Donald Duke, as the presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
The three-man panel of the appellate court in a judgment delivered on the appeal filed by Duke reversed the judgment of an Abuja High Court, which had declared Prof. Jerry Gana as the party’s candidate.
Duke had emerged the winner at the SDP presidential primaries held on October 6, 2018, where he secured 812 votes to Gana’s 611 votes.
But, Gana, citing breach of the SDP constitution, had approached the trial court seeking to void the election of Duke.
In his ruling, the trial judge, Justice Baba Hussein-Yusuf of the FCT High Court had held that the emergence of the former Cross River State governor, as SDP’s presidential candidate violated the zoning and rotation formula provided in section 15(3) of the party’s constitution.
He subsequently recognised Gana as the authentic candidate of the SDP and accordingly, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to replace the name of Duke with Gana as the SDP flagbearer in the February 16, presidential election.
Not satisfied with the judgment of the trial court, Duke, had approached the Court of Appeal, seeking to upturn the judgment of the trial court.
But the three-man panel of the appellate court, led by Justice Abdul Aboki, in a unanimous judgment, held that the amended constitution of the party which Gana relied on was not ratified as at the time the primaries that produced Duke was conducted.
He also held that any party constitution that allows for rotation and zoning is against the Nigerian constitution, and will disenfranchise citizens who have the right to vote and be voted for.
The court thereby held that the appeal has merit and it was allowed.
The court in the judgment ordered INEC to immediately recognise Duke as the authentic candidate of the SDP in the February 16 presidential election.
It also awarded a cost of N500,000 against Gana in favour of Duke, the SDP and the National Chairman of the party.