Kogi: Tribunal Dismisses SDP, PRP, AA’s petitions, affirms Ododo as duly elected kogi Governor.

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By Taiye Agbaje.

The Kogi Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, on Monday, dismissed three separate petitions filed by the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and Action Alliance (AA) against Gov. Usman Ododo’s election victory.

The three-member panel of Justices, headed by Justice Ado Birnin-Kudu, in separate judgments affirmed Governor Usman Ahned Ododo of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the valid winner of the Nov. 11, 2023 Kogi governorship election.

The panel, in a unanimous decision, held that the poll was conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in substantial compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022.

The News Agency Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the SDP and its governorship candidate, Murtala Ajaka; the PRP and its candidate, Abdullahi Bayawo, and their counterpart in AA, Olayinka Braimoh, had filed the petitions to challenge the Election victory of APC and Ododo.

Some of the allegations against INEC’s declaration of Ododo as winner of the November election were non-compliance with provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022; irregularities, certificate forgery, among others.

Delivering judgment in SDP and Ajaka”s petition, the tribunal held that the petitioners failed to prove the allegations of over-voting and non-compliance with the Electoral Act, 2022 in the petition.

It held that all the pieces of evidence by witness, filed before it, were incompetent and full of inconsistencies.

The tribunal agreed with the submissions of the respondents that the allegations of forgery raised in the petition were pre-election matter, which ought to have been raised 14 days after the documents were submitted to INEC.

Birnin-Kudu said : “I agree with the respondents that most of the exhibits tendered from the Bar without the makers constitute documentary hearsay.

“This is because, any witness who
must testify before the tribunal must have his witness statement on oath, and be allowed to bring and demonstrate evidence to be made per incuriam.”

The tribunal held that the first prosecution witness (PW1), who was an INEC Staff, was not the maker of the documents tendered, hence, the document were inadmissible.

“Unfortunately, PW1 is not a competent witness. All documents tendered through him are hereby expunged.

“PW4 and PW24 did not demonstrate the documents tendered. They could even not, if they wanted to, because they were not the makers of the documents

“Again, considering the evidence of the expert witness (PW25), exhibits 1 to 55 and (a lot more) are hereby rejected and expunged from the record.

“I agree with respondents that exhibits 1 -207 are inadmissible, hearsay as they were tendered from the Bar without linking them with the case or calling the makers, so they attract no probative value,”tge tribunal added.

The tribunal held that the witnesses were petitioners’ witnesses and not the tribunal’s witnesses.

On whether the petition was filed out of time (statute barred), the tribunal chairman held that “it was validly presented and filed within time.”

On the Ododo’s qualification to contest the election, he rejected the qualification documents of the expert witness on the ground that they were not pleaded.

It said that the petitioners failed to prove allegation of forgery as they failed to show that Ododo submitted the documents to INEC.

The panel restated that the allegation of forgery against Ododo was a pre election matter.

“Once the petitioners tie their allegation of forgery to the content or documents attached to INEC Form EC9 submitted to INEC, the matter is clearly a pre-election one which the tribunal has no jurisdiction to entertain.

“Tribunal agrees that the alleged falsified document was not a certificate as an affidavit of loss is not a document capable of disqualifying the 2nd respondent (Ododo).

“Also, the evidence to establish non-compliance must be of those who witnessed the election or those who made the documents,’ it said.

The tribunal held that out of the scores of witnesses listed in their petition, the petitioners only called 25 witnesses, describing it as insufficient to establish their case against the respondents.

It said in the instant case, the petitioners only called 3.4 per cent of their witnesses.

The tribunal said the petitioners abandoned 96.6 per cent of the witnesses they set out to call at the tribunal, adding that the depositions the witnesses adopted were full of inconsistencies and contradictions.

Besides, the panel held that out of the 25 witnesses called, none of them was either a polling agent or presiding officer who could have been regarded as makers of the documentary evidence tendered.

“The entire expert evidence/report of the PW25 is documentary hearsay.

“No probative value will be placed on same. Section 137 of the Electoral Act is not a magic wand; the petitioners are to demonstrate their documents and tie them to their case

“Again, the witness who demonstrated the BVAS stated that he could not tell if those machines were the ones deployed in Kogi, simply because the witness was not in Kogi on the day of the election but in Imo.

“My conclusions is that, the petitioners have failed to establish the ground of non-compliance with Electoral Act, 2022.

“Consequently, this petition has failed in its entirety, ” the tribunal declared.

The panel, therefore, held that the petition was bereft of substance and was accordingly dismissed.

Delivering judgment in PRP and its governorship candidate’s petition, the tribunal dismissed the petition on the ground that the petitioners failed to prove the allegations of non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022 during the poll.

The tribunal, in a unanimous judgment, held that the petitioners’ evidence-Forms EC8B and EC8D (the ward result sheets and the state result sheets)-tendered were not prepared for the Nov. 11, 2023 poll, and so were bereft of substance.

The panel said that the testimonies of the petitioners’ witnesses were hearsay, adding that failure to call polling agents from the alleged affected polling units to give their evidence was fatal to the case of the petitioners.

Besides, it held that some of the evidence of the witnesses had no probative value.

“The petition lacks merit and it is accordingly dismissed,” Justice Birnin–Kudu-led tribunal declared.

Equally, the tribunal dismissed the petition filed by AA and its candidate.

The panel held that the petitioners could not adduce any evidence to establish the allegations of non-compliance with the law.

NAN reports that the tribunal had, on Feb. 20, struck out the petition filed by the Action Peoples Party (APP) against the election victory of Ododo in the Nov. 11 governorship poll in the state.

The panel struck out the petition following its withdrawal by the Counsel for APP, Daniel Edeachi.

The application seeking the withdrawal of the petition was not opposed by lawyer to Governor Ododo, Ibrahim Muhammed, SAN; the counsel to APC, DC Denwigwe, SAN, and that of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Kanu Agabi, SAN.

The APP had in the petition number: EPR/KG/GOV/02/2023 filed on Dec. 1, 2023, before the tribunal, challenged the declaration of Ododo as the validly elected governor of Kogi in the Nov. 11, 2023 governorship poll conducted by INEC.

The party had sued Ododo, APC and INEC as 1st to 3rd respondents respectively.

However, in its motion on notice dated and filed on Feb. 15, the party sought two orders, including an order granting leave to the petitioner/applicant to withdraw the Petition No: EPT/KG/GOV/01/2023 and an order striking out or dismissing the petition, having been withdrawn by the petitioner.

Giving eight-ground of argument, APP said though it filed the petition to challenge Ododo’s victory, the party said upon the re-evaluation of the grounds and
facts of the petition, it “is not reasonably convinced about the sustainability of the grounds of the petition as presently constituted before this honourable tribunal.

According to the party, the withdrawal of the petition is based on the perceived unsustainability of the grounds of the petition and to avoid overburdening this honourable tribunal with numerous petitions. (NAN)(www.nannews.ng)

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