The Kogi Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, on Monday, dismissed the suit by Natasha Akpoti, Social Democratic Party (SDP)’s candidate in the Nov. 16, 2019 governorship election against Gov. Yahaya Bello.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Akpoti and her party, SDP, had filed a petition, asking the tribunal to nullify the victory of Governor Bello of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the poll and order a rerun.
At the sitting in Abuja, the three-member tribunal, led by Justice Kashim Kaigama, in the unanimous judgment, held that the petition failed woefully.
The tribunal also awarded the cost of N100,000 to be paid by each of the two petitioners to each of the three respondents in the case; the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the APC and Mr. Bello, totalling N600, 000.
NAN reports that Akpoti and her party had, in December 2019, filed their petition before the tribunal, praying for an order nullifying the election on the grounds that it was conducted substantially in contradiction to the Electoral Act and the electoral guidelines issued by INEC.
They alleged that the election was marred by corrupt practices, violence, and over-voting in all the polling units in the 21 local government areas of the state.
They also alleged that Bello and his running mate, Edward Onoja, should be disqualified to contest in the election on the grounds that Onoja gave false information in his Form CF001 submitted to INEC concerning the circumstances of his exit from the banking industry.
They alleged that while Onoja was sacked by the bank, he claimed that he retired from the service.
They also alleged that Onoja falsified his age and forged his educational certificate to aid his qualification to stand the election.
In the lead judgment, Justice Ohiamai Ovbiagele held that the petitioners failed to prove the alleged corrupt practices and falsification of results by any credible evidence.
He added that the petitioners merely dumped their exhibits on the tribunal without linking them to the petition.
He also noted that none of the petitioners’ 15 witnesses gave any evidence concerning over-voting, implying that the allegation was abandoned.
He held that testimonies by many of the witnesses were “patently hearsay devoid of any evidential value,” while those of some others were “ludicrous,” “unreliable” and “doubtful.”
“They are all doubtful illogical and some instances patently unreasonable,” the judge said.
He added that some of the witnesses, who claimed to have been eyewitnesses of violence at various polling units, failed to tender the video evidence they claimed to have and also failed to tender the voter cards, even though they claimed they voted in the election.
“Any voter without a voter card should not be taken seriously,” he said.
He described as “absurd,” the attempt by the petitioners to “to prove their petition without polling unit agents.”
Justice Ovbiagele also noted that “the pieces of evidence that emanated from the cross-examination of all the petitioners’ witnesses, like a dynamite, shattered the testimonies of these witnesses.”
The judge also dismissed the age falsification allegation on the grounds that the petitioners failed to prove that either Bello or his running mate was less than 35 years old as of Nov. 16, 2019, when the governorship election held.
The judge dismissed the petitioners’ claim that Onoja was dismissed from banking industry but falsely claimed in his Form CF001 submitted to INEC that he retired.
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