The legal battle over the soul of the Cross Rivers State Government House was yesterday resolved in favour of the sitting governor, Ben Ayade by the Supreme Court.
In a unanimous judgement, the apex court upheld his nomination as the valid governorship candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the last April 2015 governorship election in the State.
The court held that Ayade was validly nominated by his party PDP and consequently dismissed the appeal filed by one Chief Joe Agi SAN who was a governorship aspirant in the 2015 governorship election also on the PDP platform.
In the lead judgment delivered by Justice Binta Clara Ogunbiyi, the court held that the issue of criminality or forgery of age declaration brought by the appellant, Mr. Joe Agi (SAN) against Ayade was not proved beyond reasonable doubt as required by law.
The court said that the discrepancy in the two age declarations which bore March 2, 1968 and March 2, 1969 was not intended to cheat on Section 177 of the 1999 constitution, which put a mandatory age for a governorship candidate at 35.
The apex court said that from whatever angle, the two age declarations were looked at, the 3rd Respondents (Ayade) was either ten or eleven years over and above the mandatory age of 35 stipulated by section 177 of the 1999 constitution.
Justice Ogunbiyi also held that from whatever angle the allegation of forgery of age declaration against Ayade was weighed, it is criminality in nature and must be so treated.
This is more-so as the appellant wrote police on the issue prompting the police to write the authority of the University of Ibadan to demand for the bio-data of the governor in their investigation on the criminal allegation leveled by the appellant.
Justice Ogunbiyi said that the turning round by the appellant that he did not make criminal allegation against the respondent cannot hold water in the face of the petition the appellant wrote to the Inspector General of Police and that the letter from the judicial notice, speaks for itself.
The court therefore held that the appellant raised criminality against the governor and that he (appellant) failed to discharge the burden of proving the allegation beyond reasonable doubt as required by law because he did not lead any evidence that the age declaration was done to detriment of the 1999 constitution.
“The appellant in this case is saddled with the burden of proving which of the two age declarations allegedly made by the governor was right for forgery or falsification to be sustained. Forgery cannot be established in the absent of the original”. Justice Ogun Biyi said.
The court said, that the issue of membership of PDP raised by Agi against governor Ayade and the alleged failure to pay membership fee was an internal affairs of a political party which no court of law will enquire into.
Justice Ogundiyi said that it was a settled law that when the National Working Committee (NWC) of a party cleared an aspirant for a primary election, it is not the duty of a court to begin to enquire into that since it is a domestic affair of such a party.
Besides, the Apex Court also said that payment of party membership dues was not one of the conditions for nomination of a candidate as erroneously claimed by the appellant.
The Apex Court also said that the appellant having sworn on oath to abide with the decision of the PDP NWC on the nomination of candidate by the party cannot turn around against the party with court action to jettison his earlier oath to abide with the party supremacy.
In the unanimous judgment, the appeal of Agi was dismissed for lacking in merit and upheld the nomination of Ayade on the ground that it was properly and lawfully done by PDP.