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Ajaka vs Ododo: Tribunal reserves judgment in Kogi governorship election dispute

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The Kogi state governorship election petition tribunal sitting in Abuja has reserved judgment in the suit challenging the election of Usman Ododo as governor of the state.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced Ododo, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), as the winner of the Kogi governorship election held on November 11, 2023.

Ododo polled 446,237 votes to defeat Murtala Ajaka, candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), who came second with 259,052 votes, and Dino Melaye of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who scored 46,362 votes.

The SDP and Ajaka, after the poll, filed petitions to challenge the victory of Ododo.

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At the court session on Monday, lawyers to parties in the petition made their final submissions and adopted their written addresses.

The INEC, APC, and Ododo urged the three-member panel tribunal, led by Ado Birnin-Kudu, to dismiss the petition for lacking merit.

Kanu Agabi, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and lawyer to INEC, argued that the petition lacked merit and was incompetent.

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He urged the tribunal to either 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,” Agabi said.

He argued that the appeal court had decided that a petition should be struck out if the grounds on which it is established are inconsistent with one another, and are not consistent with the reliefs.

The INEC counsel also argued that the evidence of the petitioners was grossly insufficient, citing a supreme court decision in a case by Tonye Cole against INEC.

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“In that case, the petitioner filed 305 witness depositions but only adopted 40 of them. The petitioner only adopted about 13.1 percent of the witness depositions,” he said.

“In this case, (the petition by the SDP and Ajaka), the depositions adopted represent just about 3.6 percent of their witness depositions,” Agabi said.

He noted that the petitioners only called 25 witnesses, adding that in the mathematical calculation of evidence, 3.6 percent of Ajaka’s witness deposition adopted in the petition amounted to a failure and therefore ought to be dismissed.

Agabi argued that the petitioners’ witness, who testified about the bimodal voter accreditation system (BVAS) machines, stated that he could not guarantee whether those were the BVAS used.

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He added that out of the 25 witnesses called by the petitioners, there was no single polling unit agent among them.

Similarly, Joseph Daudu, the lawyer to Ododo, faulted the competence of the petition which he said was statute-barred for having allegedly been filed out of time.

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Daudu urged the tribunal to dismiss the allegation of forgery made by the petitioners against his client.

He argued that such an issue bordered on pre-election matters, which could not be raised in the state of post-election litigation.

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Emmanuel Ukala, counsel to APC, also prayed the tribunal to dismiss the petition for lacking merit.

Petitioners’ lawyer, Pius Akubo, faulted the claim by the respondents that the petition was filed out of time.

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He also submitted that the petitioners have provided sufficient evidence to support their case that the election was marred by irregularities and corrupt practices.

Akubo prayed to the tribunal to allow the petition and reverse Ododo’s victory.

After taking the arguments, Birnin-Kudu, the chairman of the tribunal, reserved judgment on the petition.

“The date will be communicated to both parties,” he said.

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