Nigeria court upholds Senate president's election

A Nigerian court upheld the disputed election of the Senate president on Tuesday, ending uncertainty over who would run Africa’s most populous nation if President Umaru Yar’Adua loses his job in a legal battle.

As holder of the third highest political office in Nigeria, Senate President David Mark would take over temporarily if the president and vice-president were forced to step down.

The country’s Supreme Court is due to rule later this year on an appeal against Yar’Adua’s April 2007 election by his two rivals. The presidential vote was part of federal and state polls which international observers said were widely flawed.

A special tribunal in Mark’s home state of Benue in February annulled his election but the Senate president appealed against the ruling.

“The decision of the lower tribunal is hereby set aside. The election of the senator ...
is hereby affirmed,” said Judge Zainab Bulkachuwa in a ruling at the appeals court in the central city of Jos.

Nigeria’s elections last year were supposed to be a landmark transition from one elected president to another after three decades of almost continuous army rule ended in 1999.

But the polls were so chaotic, with widespread vote-rigging, ballot-stuffing and violent intimidation, that international observers said the results were not credible.

Many observers had expected the appeals court ruling to go against Mark.

“The result will shock a lot of people who followed the case closely,” said Antony Goldman, an independent expert on Nigeria.

“There had seemed a good deal of evidence to suggest that across the state voting for the senate had been less than free and fair,” he said.

Nigerian courts have annulled the elections of 10 state governors and ordered fresh polls. The latest such ruling on Monday, quashed the election of Cross River state Governor Liyel Imoke of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

The PDP was declared winner in 28 of 36 state governorship elections, while Yar’Adua—who has made respect for the rule of law the cornerstone of his administration—was named winner of the presidential race with more than 70% of the vote.

Of the 10 governorship elections overturned, re-runs have so far been held in four states, all of them won by the PDP. - Reuters

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