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Kogi: INEC, APC, Ododo ask tribunal to dismiss SDP’s petition

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), on Monday, prayed the Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja to dismiss a petition filed by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and its governorship candidate, Murtala Ajaka, against the election victory of Gov. Usman Ododo of Kogi.

Also, Gov. Ododo and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), told the three-member panel of justices, headed by Justice Ado Birnin-Kudu, to dismiss the petition in its entirety for being incompetent and lacking in merit.

The trio, through their lawyers; Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN; Joseph Daudu, SAN and Emmanuel Ukala, SAN, respectively, told the tribunal while adopting their final written addresses and presenting their arguments against SDP and Ajaka’s petition.

However, Ajaka’s lawyer, Pius Akubo, SAN, urged the tribunal to discountenance the respondents’ submissions and uphold their petition.

The tribunal after listening to all the parties in the petition, reserved the matter for judgment.

It would be recalled that Ajaka had challenged Ododo’s victory in the Nov. 11, 2023 Kogi governorship poll.

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

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

Upon resumed hearing, INEC’s counsel, Chief Agabi, told the court that their final written address was dated and filed on May 2.

He said the commission’s reply on point of law was dated May 8 and filed May 9.

While adopting the processes, the senior lawyer submitted that the petition lacked merit and incompetent, urging the court to 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 Court of Appeal and Supreme Court,” he said.

He argued that 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 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 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.

The lawyer also described the case as frivolous.

He said the petitioners equally failed to file the witness deposition before hand 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 (BVAS) machines clearly stated that he could not guarantee whether those were the BVAS used.

Besides, he said the witness was not the maker of the inputs in the BVAS machines.

The lawyer, who said their final written address, dated April 30 was filed same date, adopted all the processes.

The petitioners’ lawyer, Akubo, told the tribunal that their final written address was dated and filed May 6.

He disagreed with Daudu that their petition was 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 the arguments, Justice Birnin-Kudu reserved judgment in the petition which he said would be communicated to parties.

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