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Kogi poll: Ajaka insists on stolen mandate, appeals tribunal verdict

The governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the November 11, 2023, Kogi State governorship election, Muritala Yakubu Ajaka, and his party have gone to the Court of Appeal, Abuja to challenge the judgement of the State Election Petition Tribunal, which affirmed Ahmed Usman Ododo of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the elected governor of the state.

In the record compiled and transmitted to the appellate court through his lawyer, Pius Akubo (SAN), on June 14, the appellants said the judgement of the Tribunal, which affirmed Ododo’s election, was a serious miscarriage of justice.

Ajaka and his party, in the appeal, hinged on 31 grounds, insisting that they are the winners of the November 11, 2023, governorship election and should be declared the rightful winners.

The appellants, who are dissatisfied with the decision of the Kogi State Election Petition Tribunal headed by Hon. Justice Ado Yusuf Birnin Kudu, are praying to the court for an order setting aside the judgement of the Tribunal, an order restoring the testimony of their first witness (PW1) as well as all the documents they tendered but expunged from the records of the Tribunal.

The appellants also want the Appeal Court to hold that Ododo was not even qualified to have contested the election into the office of Governor of Kogi State and that all votes ascribed and/or allocated to him and the APC are wasted votes.

“An order granting the reliefs sought by the appellants in the petition and thereupon declaring him (the 1st Appellant) as the duly elected governor of Kogi State.”

It would be recalled that shortly after the judgement of the Tribunal delivered on May 27, 2024, Ajaka said that the long walk to freedom in Kogi State had just begun.

He maintained that throughout the entire process, their team of lawyers exhibited the highest level of professionalism and tenacity, adding that, “They meticulously gathered evidence, scrutinised data, and presented a compelling case to the Tribunal.”

“Unfortunately, the Tribunal, despite agreeing to the embarrassing over-voting and rigging exercise, struck our case out. I can assure you that this judgement will not stand the test of time. Yes, we may have lost the battle at the Tribunal, but the war is far from over. Our stolen mandate and our voice will not be silenced.

“We will reclaim our stolen mandate and restore the faith of our people in the democratic process,” he said.

In his reaction, counsel to the appellants stressed that the Tribunal agreed that Ajaka filed his case within the stipulated time and that the three-member panel of Justices of the Tribunal admitted that there was over-voting.

“But in their confusion, they ruled that PW1, who displayed the documents with which they agreed there was over-voting, is not clear to them. They claimed they did not know if he was INEC staff or not.”

The senior lawyer said it was the Tribunal that ordered INEC to provide the BVAS and someone who would power and display the BVAS in court, and that PW1 came to the court with a certified letter from INEC stating that he was indeed the representative of INEC.

According to Akubo, PW1 was in court with his ID card and other supporting documents to show he is INEC staff.

“Recall further that when the PW1 absented from the court, the Tribunal ordered INEC to produce him or produce another person, and they did comply to produce him, yet the Tribunal said they do not know him. What a contradictory judgement!

“I want to say that the election of November 11, 2023, in Kogi State was not conducted in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act, 2022, as well as manual and guidelines involving the conduct of elections, having regard to the numerous instances of over-voting.”

He said the appellants demonstrated in a graphic and tabular form before the Tribunal that they scored the majority of lawful votes in the election and not the 2nd and 3rd Respondents.

Akubo said the appellants led evidence to the effect that if the votes affected by over-voting are deducted from the overall votes, the appellants and not the 2nd and 3rd Respondents will have the majority of lawful votes.

Clearly and unambiguously, he said, the appellants tendered all the necessary election forms and documents, which completely demonstrated that the 2nd Respondent did not score the majority of the lawful votes as claimed.

Akubo stated that a serious miscarriage of justice has been done for not declaring the appellants winners of the November 11, 2023, governorship election in Kogi state.

  • Ameh Ochojila

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