Kogi guber: SDP, Ajaka heads to Court of Appeal

•Urges tribunal to set aside judgment

 

From Godwin Tsa, Abuja

The Social Democratic Party (SDP) and its governorship candidate in Kogi State, Muritala Ajaka, have asked the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal to set aside the tribunal judgment affirming Governor Ahmed Ododo of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the  elected governor of the state.

The appellants, through their lead counsel, Pius Akubo (SAN), are contending that the judgment of the state governorship election tribunal which affirmed Ododo’s election was a serious miscarriage of justice.

In a 31-grounds of appeal, Ajaka and his party insisted that they were the winners of the November 11, 2023 governorship election, and should be declared the rightful winner.

The appellants, who are dissatisfied with the decision of the Kogi State Election Petition Tribunal headed by Justice Ado Yusuf Birnin Kudu are praying the court for an order setting aside the judgement of the Tribunal, and 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 that 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 were wasted votes. Shortly after the judgement of the Tribunal delivered on May 27, 2024, Ajaka said the long walk to freedom in Kogi State had just began.

He maintained that throughout the entire process, their team of lawyers exhibited the highest level of professionalism and tenacity, adding, “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 stollen mandate and our voice will not be silenced.

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

In his reaction, Akubo stressed that the Tribunal agreed that Ajaka filled 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 an INEC staff or not,” he stated.

The senior lawyer said it was the Tribunal that ordered INEC to provide the BVAS and someone who will 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 the 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.”

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 effects 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 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 respondents did not score 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.

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