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BREAKING: Tribunal Affirms Ododo’s Election As Kogi Governor, Dismisses Muri Ajaka Petition

The Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja has affirmed the election victory of Governor Usman Ododo of All Progressives Congress (APC) in the November 11, 2023, governorship poll in the state.

The three-member panel of justices, headed by Justice Ado Birnin-Kudu, on Monday, May 27, 2024, held that the petition was bereft of substance and accordingly dismissed.

The tribunal declared that the petitioners – the Social Democratic Party (SDap) and its candidate, Murtala Ajaka – failed to prove the allegations of over-voting and non-compliance with the Electoral Act, 2022 in the petition.

The panel, in a unanimous decision, held that all the witness evidence filed before it were incompetent and full of inconsistencies.

It also 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 the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

It would be recalled that Kogi held its off-cycle election on November 11, 2023, in which Ododo of the All Progressive Congress (APC) emerged victorious, beating his closest rival, Ajaka of the SDP, by a wide margin.
Ajaka, dissatisfied with the outcome of the election, had filed a petition before the tribunal, challenging Ododo’s victory.

The case, which commenced in December 2023, came to its highest point on May 13 when SDP, Ajaka, APC, Ododo, and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) adopted their final written addresses, after which the tribunal reserved judgement in the petition.

INEC, Ododo, and his party, APC, had prayed the tribunal to dismiss Ajaka and SDP’s petition in its entirety for being incompetent and lacking in merit.

INEC, Ododo, and the APC, through their lawyers, Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN; Joseph Daudu, SAN; and Emmanuel Ukala, SAN, respectively, told the tribunal so while adopting their final written addresses and presenting their arguments against the petition.

However, Ajaka’s lawyer, Pius Akubo, SAN, had urged the tribunal to discountenance the respondents’ submissions and uphold their petition.

In his argument, INEC’s lawyer, Chief Agabi, told the panel that the petition lacked merit and incompetent, urging the court 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 was grossly insufficient, citing a Supreme Court decision in a case by Tonye Cole against INEC.

The senior lawyer, who described the case as frivolous, prayed the tribunal to strike out or dismiss the petition for being incompetent.

Ododo, through his counsel, Daudu, also urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition in its entirety.

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

He also urged the tribunal to dismiss the allegations of forgery against his client, saying it bordered on a 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 merit.

The petitioners’ lawyer, Akubo, had disagreed with Daudu that their petition was filed out of time.

He argued that the respondents themselves confirmed that the petition was filed on December 2, 2023, even by their own witness.

“I urge your lordship to hold that we filed this petition within time under our law,”

The Tribunal in it judgment dismissed all the grounds of over voting, struke out SDP BVAS expert testimony for falling-short of Evidence Act, consequently, upheld the election of Governor Ahmed Usman Ododo as the duly elected Governor of kogi State.

In its judgement today, the Tribunal held that the Petitioners failed to prove forgery. They failed to show that Ododo submitted the documents to INEC.

The Tribunal said, “The 21 Petitioners’ Witnesses are not presiding officers or Agents. The Petitioners have therefore failed.

“The word for word Witness Statements show that the Witnesses who come from different parts of Kogi show that their testimonies were procured.”

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