May 20, 2024

The Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, sitting in Abuja on Monday, reserved judgment in the petition filed by the Social Democratic Party and its governorship candidate, Murtala Ajaka, against the election victory of Usman Ododo.

At today’s proceedings, Ajaka’s lawyer, Pius Akubo, urged the tribunal to set aside the respondents’ submissions and uphold theirs.

Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission, through its lawyer, Kanu Agabi, told the court that their final written address was dated and filed on May 2 as he prayed the tribunal sitting to dismiss Ajaka’s petition.

Likewise, the All Progressives Congress and Ododo asked the tribunal to dismiss Ajaka’s petition in its entirety for being incompetent and lacking in merit.

Counsel to the respondents, Agabi, Joseph Daudu, and Emmanuel Ukala, while adopting their final written addresses and presenting their arguments against the petitioners, prayed the three-member panel of Justices, led by Justice Ado Birnin-Kudu to dismiss the petition.

Agabi contended 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 were grossly insufficient, citing a Supreme Court decision in a case by Tonye Cole against INEC.

“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.

“It is to the effect that once the evidence called is grossly insufficient, there is no evidence. In that case, the petitioner filed 305 witness depositions but only adopted 40 of them.

“The petitioner, according to the decision, only adopted about 13.1 per cent of the witness depositions. In this case, the depositions adopted represent just about 3.6 per cent of their witness depositions,” he said.

He said the petitioners only called 25 witnesses out of the scores listed.

Agabi, said in the mathematical calculation of evidence, 3.6 per cent of Ajaka’s witness deposition adopted in the petition amounted to a failure and therefore, ought to be dismissed.

He said the petitioners equally failed to file the witness deposition beforehand in contravention of the Supreme Court’s decision in Obungado’s case.

He argued that the petitioners’ witness who testified about the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System machines, clearly stated that he could not guarantee whether those were the BVAS used.

Agabi further argued that the BVAS machine was tendered against Section 84 of the Evidence Act, as there was no certificate of trustworthiness attached alongside it as required by the law.

“Also, the evidence contained in the BVAS machines fell short of what is required of the law,” he added.

He described the case as frivolous as he argued that out of 25, not a single election observer was called.

“Besides, the star witness could not distinguish between what he heard and what he saw when questions were put to him”.

Ododo’s legal representation, Daudu, while adopting his final written address dated and filed on May 1, argued that the petition was statute-barred (filed out of time).

He argued that the action of the petitioners was against Section 122(1) and (2)(a) of the Evidence Act, which empowers the tribunal to take judicial notice of the time of filing, service and response.

Although he clarified that the petitioners responded to their service, Akubo objected to Daudu’s citing of the section describing it as a fresh argument.

Daudu, in response, disagreed with Akubo that he was raising fresh issues after a final written address had been filed.

He said if the court found merit in his argument, Akubo had the right to respond because it bordered on issues of remittal procedure.

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.

Similarly, Ukala, who represented APC, urged the court to dismiss SDP and Ajaka’s petition for lacking in merit while he adopted all the processes.

He informed the court that their final written address, dated April 30 was filed same date.

The petitioners’ lawyer, Akubo, told the tribunal that their final written address was dated and filed May 6 adding that their petition was not 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,” he said.

After taking arguments from all parties, Justice Birnin-Kudu reserved judgment in the petition.

He announced that a date for judgment would be communicated to the parties.

Recall that the tribunal had, on April 25, fixed today for the adoption of final written addresses after the parties closed their case in the matter.

SDP and Ajaka had approached the tribunal to challenge Ododo’s victory in the Nov. 11, 2023, Kogi governorship elections.

In the petition, INEC, Ododo and APC are listed as 1st to 3rd respondents respectively.

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