Tribunal Reserves Judgement In Kogi Governorship Tussle

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The Kogi State Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Abuja, on Thursday, reserved judgement in a petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its governorship candidate, Engr. Musa Wada, in the November 16, 2019 governorship election in the state.

Wada is challenging the victory Governor Yahaya Bello. The three-man panel of the tribunal  headed by Justice Justice Kashim G. Kaigama, reserved judgement in the petition marked EPT/KG/GOV/06/2019, after parties adopted their final written addresses. Counsel to the petitioner, Jibril Okutepa (SAN), while adopting his brief, urged the court to uphold the petition and order that the first petitioner (Wada) be returned as the duly elected governor of Kogi State, having won majority of votes cast in the election.

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He also asked the court to reject every objection raised by the respondents in the matter. The respondents in the petition include the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Governor Yahaya Bello and the All Progressives Congress (APC) as first, second and third respondents, respectively. Okutepa in further argument alleged massive rigging during the election and substantial non-compliance to electoral laws.

According to him, “There was massive thumb printing of ballot papers in seven local government areas of the state by people believed to be agents of Bello and APC rather than voters. “It is therefore my submission that the court upholds the petition and grant the reliefs, and not to be persuaded by the highly technical submissions done by my learned colleagues. Earlier, lawyers to the respondents had urged the court to dismiss the petition in its entirety for lacking in merit.

Counsel to the respondents, Dr. Alex Iziyon (SAN), Joseph Daudu (SAN) and Ahmed Raji (SAN), relied on all processes filed as well as the final written addresses in urging the court to discountenance the petition. “Our submission is that the petitioners have failed woefully to prove statistics as required by law”, stated Iziyon (SAN). The lawyers argued that there were seven local government areas out of 21 in the state and 2,548 poling units involved in the dispute, but the petitioners did not present more than 32 witnesses to prove cases of alleged election malpractice, substantial non-compliance to electoral rules and other forms of irregularities as alleged. They also faulted the petitioner for presenting a witness who informed the court that the petition gave rise to the report he tendered in court. According to the counsel, the implication was that the report was made when the matter was already pending in court. Both parties had engaged in a heated debate shortly after announcing their appearances over the admissibility or not of the Smart Card Reader report tendered on April 8 through PW 24. Recall that the respondents’ counsel had objected the admissibility of the report on the ground that it was not listed initially but the Court of Appeal on April 30, ruled in favour of the admissibility of the report, which the tribunal had initially rejected. At the end of the argument, however, the court admitted the Smart Card Reader report, which was tendered through PW 24, who represented the chairman of INEC, who was subpoenaed by the tribunal.

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The report was marked Exhibit P218. Wada and his party had in December 2019, filed a petition at the tribunal challenging the declaration of Bello as winner of the election by INEC.

Source: New Telegraph

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