There was jubilation on Friday after the Edo State Governorship Election Petitions tribunal dismissed a petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party and its candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, challenging the declaration of Godwin Obaseki of the All Progressives Congress as winner of the September 28, 2016.
The two-hour ruling read by the Chairman of the three-man panel, by Justice Ahmed Badamasi, upheld the return of Obaseki as Governor of the state by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The tribunal held that the petition lacked merit as the petitioners failed to prove their case.
The PDP and Ize-Iyamu had in the substantive petition marked “EPT/EDS/GOV/2/2016″ urged the tribunal to declare him as the rightful winner of the election, having scored the highest number of votes cast.
They had listed INEC, Obaseki and APC as first, second and third respondents, respectively, and called 92 witnesses to prove their case.
Prior to the ruling, there was a heavy presence of security operatives on major routes leading to the venue of the tribunal.
A combined team of personnel from the Nigeria Police, Department of State Services and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps were seen on Reservation road and Ezoti Street while the lanes on Sapele road were barricaded.
At the State High Court complex, venue of the tribunal, lawyers, journalists and politicians were directed to enter the tribunal in separate queues.
In a unanimous ruling on the five issues for determination, including the identity of the first petitioner, allegations of non-compliance with electoral procedures and corrupt practices during the election, the tribunal held that the first petitioner had the locus standi to file a petition, having been sponsored by the PDP.
It said, “In the instant case, the first petitioner has pleaded that he contested the election, ab initio, and the second respondent has admitted that in his reply to the petition.
“Again, the first petitioner in its affidavit in support averred that Ize-Iyamu Osagie is his given name, Andrew is his baptimal name and Pastor is a prefix to his name. These averments are not controverted in the further affidavit of the second respondent.”
It added, “We are of the view that the name Ize-Iyamu Osagie is the same as Pastor Ize-Iyamu Osagie Andrew.
However, on whether there were corrupt practices during the election and whether the second respondent deserved the votes he was said to have scored, it held that it was on record that no single witness of the petitioners cited any issue of corrupt practice, adding that the petitioners chose to confine their case to non-compliance and, therefore, abandoned their pleadings on the former.
It also held that there was no single averment to show cause why a fresh election should be ordered on the ground of non-compliance.
It noted that the heavy reliance of the petitioners on manual accreditation to prove over-voting was displaced as excess votes could be established when the total number of votes cast exceeded the total number of voters accredited.
According to the tribunal, most of the petitioners’ witnesses contradicted themselves when they were presented with the voter register and, therefore, discredited themselves.