Tribunal affirms Ododo as Kogi Gov, dismisses Ajaka’s petition

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  • Panel upholds Diri’s re-election, quashes Sylva’s appeal

The Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, on Monday, affirmed Usman Ododo as the Governor of Kogi State.

In upholding the election of the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, the tribunal dismissed the petition of Muritala Ajaka of the Social Democratic Party.

The three-member tribunal led by Justice Ado Birnin-Kudu held that the Social Democratic Party and its governorship candidate, Murtala Ajaka failed to prove their allegations against the respondents.

Birnin-Kudu said the election was conducted in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act.

The Independent National Electoral Commission had announced Ododo, the candidate of the APC as the winner of the Kogi governorship election held on November 11, 2023.

Ododo polled 446,237 votes to defeat Ajaka, who came second with 259,052 votes, and Dino Melaye of the People’s Democratic Party, who scored 46,362 votes.

Ododo, a former Auditor General of Kogi State and an ally of the immediate-past governor, Yahaya Bello, was sworn in on January 27, 2024.

Panel upholds Diri’s re-election, quashes Sylva’s appeal

Similarly, the Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal has affirmed the re-election of Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa State.

The three-man panel led by Justice Adekunle Adeleye dismissed the petition brought by the All Progressives Congress and its candidate, Timipre Sylva.

In its unanimous decision, the tribunal held that the petitioners failed to adduce any credible evidence to substantiate any of the allegations they raised against the outcome of the Bayelsa State governorship poll.

It struck out as incompetent, all the additional proof of evidence as well as statements on oath of some of the witnesses that testified for the petitioners.

According to the tribunal, the law expressly provided that an election petition must be filed not later than 21 days after the result of an election was declared.

It held that such a petition must at the time it was filed, be accompanied with written statements of all the intended witnesses.

The tribunal held that the decision of Sylva and his party to file their additional proof of evidence and statement on oath of witnesses, long after they had filed the petition, was tantamount to a surreptitious attempt to amend the case of the petitioners.

More so, the tribunal dismissed the allegation that the deputy governor, Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, tendered a forged university degree certificate and National Youth Service Corps Exemption Certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission in aid of his qualification to contest the election.

It held that the allegation was a pre-election matter that ought to be litigated before the Federal High Court, adding that the matter had become statute-barred since the petitioners failed to challenge the genuineness of the certificates, 14 days after it was submitted to INEC.

It also held that the issue of Ewhrudjakpo’s educational qualification was previously determined by a court of competent jurisdiction.

The tribunal said it took judicial notice of the fact that the third respondent, Ewhrudjakpo, is a legal practitioner, saying it was satisfied that he was eminently qualified to contest the election.

Likewise, the tribunal noted that whereas Sylva and his party prayed to declare that they were the valid winners of the governorship election; they equally applied for the same election to be declared invalid.

It held that the prayers of the petitioners were contradictory, adding that Sylva and APC did not tender any electoral material to show that any irregularity occurred during the election.

It held that the petitioners were unable to discharge the burden of proof that was placed on them by the law, stressing that they failed to show, polling units by polling units, the particulars of the noncompliance they alleged and how it substantially affected the outcome of the election.

The tribunal Chairman, Justice Adeleye, who read the lead judgement, further held that some of the allegations in the petition contained elements of criminality that ought to have been proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

The tribunal upheld preliminary objections the respondents filed to challenge the competence of the election.