The Kogi State National and State Houses of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal on Wednesday upheld the election of Smart Adeyemi of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the Senator representing Kogi West Senatorial District.

Members of the three-man tribunal, led by Justice Isa Sambo, were unanimous in dismissing the petition by Dino Melaye and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The tribunal held that the petitioners were unable to prove their allegation that the return of Senator Adeyemi as the winner of the election held on November 16, 2019 and the supplementary election held on November 30, 2019 was unlawful.

Justice Khadi Adamu Usman, in the judgment, analysed the evidence led by the petitioners and concluded that they failed in proving their allegations that the election and the supplementary election were marred by irregularity and substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act.

Justice Usman noted that while the election was conducted in 173 polling unit, the petitioners called witnesses in respect of only on 48 polling units, leaving 125 polling units in respect of which the petitioners did not call witnesses.

The judge also noted that while the petitioners had indicated their intention to call 257 witness, they were only able to call 71 witnesses.

He categorised the evidence of the petitioners’ witnesses into four categories – allegation of irreconcilable interest in result form (Form EC8A1); alteration without counter-signing of Form EC8A1; allegation of mutilation of results, over voting and inaccurate ballot paper accounting, and allegation of non-holding of election – and held that the witnesses failed to prove any of the allegations.

Justice Usman held that beside the 12th petitioners’ witness, all the other witnesses of the petitioners gave contradictory, conflicting, hearsay and unreliable evidence.

In rejecting the evidence given by the first petitioner (Melaye, who testified at the 69th petitioners’ witness), the tribunal held that “the evidence of this witness is full of contradictions, it is not safe to rely on it. it is hereby rejected.”

In equally rejecting the evidence of the petitioners’ 71th witness, (Femi Obalemohad who acted as PDP’s Collation Agent of Kogi West Senatorial District), the tribunal held that “the evidence of this witness is shapely contradictory and cannot be relied on. His evidence is not directly from what he personally witnessed.”

Justice Usman said: “The position of the law is that once an election result has been declared by the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the result enjoys the presumption of regularity of the result as the burden is on the person challenging the result or the return to lead evidence to prove that the result to disprove the result.

“The petitioners failed to discharge this burden by proving their allegation of irregularities in accordance with the requirement of the law,” Justice Usman said.

He held that the only authentic result before the tribunal were the results as declared by INEC, which the lawyer to the second respondent (Adeyemi) tendered.

“This tribunal is of the firm believe that Exhibits P39 (1) & (2) are the only results known to law regarding the election held on the 16th of November 2019 and that supplementary election held on the 30th of November 2019.

“Having meticulously perused the averments in petition, the replies filed by the respondent sand the replies on point of law filed by the petitioners, and all the testimonies of the witnesses called by the petitioners, and read the final written addresses filed by all the counsel and the replies on point of law filed thereon, the tribunal is convinced that the petitioners failed in discharging the burden of proving their petition.

“The tribunal finds that the petitioners failed to lead credible evidence to prove their allegations,” Justice Usman said.

He held that the petitioners do not deserve the reliefs sought and proceeded to dismiss the petition.

Justice Usman then upheld Adeyemi’s return as the winner of the election and declined to award cost against any of the parties.

Other members of the tribunal – Justices Sambo and Ogadinma Agada – agreed with the lead judgment.

Earlier the tribunal dismissed the objection raised by Adyemi against Melaye’s qualification to content the election.

The tribunal was of the view that the issue of qualification was a pre-election matter.

It also dismissed Adeyemi’s motion, in which he prayed the tribunal to strike out some portions of the petition.

The tribunal said there was nothing wrong with the paragraphs which the second respondents (Adeyemi) wanted it to strike out.

It also dismissed the cross-petition filed by Adeyemi on grounds that it amounted to an abuse of court process.

The tribunal’s judgment lasted about four hours. At a point, around 12:30pm, the tribunal stood down proceedings. It resumed sitting about 15 minutes later.

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