• As APC, INEC, Gov. Ododo asked tribunal to dismiss petition

From Godwin Tsa Abuja

The Kogi Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja has reserved judgment in the petition by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and it’s candidate, Murtala Ajaka, challenging the election of governor Usman Ododo.

This came as both Governor Ododo, his political platform, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to dismiss the petition in it’s entirety for being incompetent and lacking in merit.

The three-member tribunal led by Justice Ado Birnin-Kudu reserved judgment in the petition after parties had adopted their various final legal positions canvassed before it.
The legal team to the respondents anchored by Chief Kanu Agabi, Joseph Daudu and Emmanuel Ukala – all Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) had urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition and uphold the return of Ododo as the dully elected governor of Kogi State.
But counsel to Ajaka, Pius Akubo (SAN), urged the tribunal to discountenance the respondents’ submissions and uphold their petition.
The tribunal, after listening to all the parties in the petition, reserved the matter for judgment.

Ajaka and SDP had in their petition challenged Ododo’s victory in the November 11, 2023 Kogi governorship poll listing the INEC, Ododo and APC as 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents respectively.

The tribunal had, on April 25, fixed Monday for adoption of final written addresses after parties closed their case in the matter.

Upon resumed hearing on Monday, INEC’s counsel, Agabi submitted that the petition lacked merit and was incompetent and therefore, urged the tribunal to strike it out or dismiss it.

“It is our humble submission that your work in the determination of this petition is simplified in recent judgments by the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court,” he said.

He argued that the Appeal Court had decided that if the grounds of a petition are inconsistent with one another, and are not consistent with the reliefs, it should be struck out.

He also argued that the evidence of the petitioners were grossly insufficient, citing a Supreme Court decision in a case by Tonye Cole against INEC.

“It is to the effect that once the evidence called is grossly insufficient, there is no evidence.

Agabi said the petitioners in this case only called 25 witnesses out of the scores listed, adding that in a mathematical calculation of evidence, 3.6 per cent of Ajaka’s witness deposition adopted in the petition amounted to a failure and, therefore, ought to be dismissed.

He argued that the petitioners’ witness, who testified about the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machines clearly stated that he could not guarantee whether those were the BVAS used.

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Besides, he said the witness was not the maker of the inputs in the BVAS machines.

“Also, the evidence contained in the BVAS machines fell short of what is required of the law,” he added.

While adopting his final written address dated and filed on May 1, Daudu, who appeared for Gov. Ododo, urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition in its entirety.

Adumbrating, he argued that the petition was statute barred (filed out of time).

The senior lawyer said that though the petitioners responded to their submission that “when it comes to filing, it is what the secretary of the tribunal says that determines the date of filing,” he, however, argued that the action of the petitioners was against Section 122(1) and (2)(a) of the Evidence Act, which empowers the tribunal to take judicial notice of this.

But Akubo objected to Daudu’s citing of the section, describing it as fresh argument.

Daudu, in response, disagreed with Akubo that he was raising fresh issues after a final written address had been filed.

He also urged the tribunal to dismiss the allegations of forgery against his client, saying it bordered on pre-election matter, which the apex court had decided in Gbagi’s case against INEC.

Daudu also argued that Section 137 of the Electoral Act cited by the petitioners on allegations of over-voting did not apply in the instant petition.

Also backing Daudu’s submission, Ukala, who represented APC, urged the court to dismiss the petition for lacking in merit.


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