• Dismisses SDP, Ajaka’s petition

From Godwin Tsa, Abuja

The Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, has affirmed Usman Ododo as the authentic Governor of Kogi state.

The tribunal in a unanimous judgment, dismissed the petition filed by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and its governorship candidate, Murtala Ajaka.

But in a swift reaction, the SPD governorship candidate, Ajaka has vowed to challenge the judgment at the Court of Appeal describing his loss at the tribunal to Governor Usman Ododo as a temporary setback.

According to a statement signed in Abuja, Ajaka declared that “A long walk to freedom has just begun.

“Today, I come before you with a heavy heart, but also with a fire of optimism burning in my soul. We have just received the news that our election petition has been unsuccessful at the tribunal.

“It is a setback, a moment of disappointment, and it is natural for us to feel disheartened. But let me tell you this, my fellow Kogites, this is not the end of our journey. This is just a chapter in our fight for justice, truth, the rights of our people and freedom”, the statement reads.

He called on his supporters to remain calm and to conduct themselves in orderly manner while they await justice at the appellate court.

“I call upon every one of you, my fellow Kogites, to stay united, to stand strong, and to continue the fight. Our journey may be long and challenging, but together, we can overcome any obstacles that come our way. Let us not lose hope, let us not lose faith, and let us not lose sight of the ultimate goal.”

The three-member tribunal led by by Justice Ado Birnin-Kudu held that going by the decisions of the Supreme Court on the 2023 presidential and governorship elections, statements of witnesses must be filed along with a petition, not during a petition.

“The petitioners have failed to file their witness statements (of PW1) on oath along with the petition, within the given time,” the judge said while expunging the exhibits tendered by the petitioners.

He added that “the piece of oral evidence made by the petitioner’s witnesses are “hearsay evidence” as they are not the makers of the exhibits tendered before the tribunal.

The tribunal dismissed the petition and affirmed the election of Ododo while holding that the petitioner could not prove that the governor presented a forged certificate.

Besides, the tribunal further held that the witnesses presented by the petitioners were not polling unit agents or INEC presiding officers.

Related News

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared the candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Usman Ododo, as the winner of the keenly contested November 11, 2023 Kogi State Governorship Election.

The state Returning Officer, Prof Johnson Urama, who is the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academics) of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, announced Ododo as the winner at 10:23 pm on Sunday, November 12, 2023.

According to the announced results, Ododo polled 446,237 votes, to beat his closest rival, Murtala Ajaka of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), who scored 259,052, while Dino Melaye of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) polled 46,362 votes.

Dissatisfied, the petitioners approached the tribunal challenging the outcome of the election.

They further sought for an order directing INEC to conduct a fresh election in about five LGAs.

However, during the course of proceedings, counsel to Ajaka, Mr Joseph Okutepa(SAN) contested the results of the election on the grounds of alleged forgery, voting and non-compliance to the Electoral Act.

The petitioner called 25 witnesses from the five Local Government Areas including Adavi, and Okene LGAs, and they challenged the results from the disputed polling units.

The petitioners alleged that over-voting occurred in 5 local government areas of Kogi state including Adavi, Okene, Okeyi, and LGAs.

They claimed that Ododo tendered false information to INEC.

However, the APC legal team led by Emmanuel Ukala challenged the competence of the witnesses presented by the petitioner.

Counsel for INEC, Kanu Agabi (SAN) maintained that the witnesses presented by the petitioner are incompetent because “they are not the makers” of the electoral documents submitted as exhibits.

The respondents maintained that the exhibits touching on forgery and overvoting are “mere photocopies” that cannot be relied upon by any court.

But Pius Akubo, who represented the petitioners during one of the proceedings, argued that the allegation that his clients did not call the makers of the exhibits is misleading, adding that the documents are certified true copies from respective institutions including INEC.

 


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