Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Kogi State governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja on Thursday reserved judgment in the petition brought by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in the November 16, 2019, governorship election, Engineer Musa Wada, against the outcome of the election.
A three-man panel of justices headed by Justice Kashim Kaigama reserved judgment after the adoption of final addresses by counsel to all the parties to the petition.
In the petition marked EPT/KG/GOV/06/2019, the petitioners have asked the Tribunal to order the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue Wada a Certificate of Return as the duly elected Governor of Kogi State.
The reliefs, which were contained in a three-volume petition of over 500 pages each, was dated December 5, 2019, and filed at the Tribunal sitting in Abuja
Wada and his political platform, the PDP, have called a total of 32 witnesses, including the INEC Chairman and a Residence Electoral Commissioner (REC), to prove their claim that the election was characterised by irregularities, violence, ballot snatching and stuffing, and non-compliance with the electoral act, constitution and INEC’s guideline for governorship elections.
While Governor Yahaya Bello of the All Progressives Congress (APC) called just one witness through his counsel, Joseph Daudu (SAN), both the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) represented by Dr Alex Izinyon (SAN) and Ahmed Raji (SAN), who appeared for the APC, did not call any witness at the Tribunal.
Before the hearing of the petition, the INEC had listed a total of 271 witnesses, Governor Bello 120 witnesses, and the APC had announced that it will call 250 witnesses.
All the three respondents had in their separate papers urged the Tribunal to dismiss the petition filed in December 2019 and affirm the return of Governor Bello by the INEC as the validly elected governor of Kogi state
They equally argued that the petitioners had through their witnesses failed to prove the allegations of irregularities and other acts of election malpractice contained in the petition.
The PDP and its candidate had in their petition prayed the Tribunal to declare that Governor Bello of the APC was not the valid winner of the Kogi State gubernatorial contest.
Counsel to the petitioners Jibril Okutepa (SAN) insisted that the APC with the aid of security agents had a field day rigging the election in Bello’s favour.
Consequently, the petitioners want the Tribunal to determine and declare that the 2nd respondent (Governor Yahaya Bello) was not duly elected and/or returned by a majority of lawful votes cast during the election.
They are seeking a declaration that neither the second nor the third respondent (APC) scored the majority of lawful votes cast at the election to the office of the governor.
The petitioners asked the court to issue an order nullifying the Certificate of Return issued to Bello by the electoral commission and, in addition, issue an order nullifying the entire governorship election conducted in the State by reason of substantial non-compliance with the provisions of the Constitution and extant Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
Furthermore, Wada wants an order declaring that he scored the majority of votes cast at the election and that, having fulfilled the requirements of section 179(2)(a) and (b) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria 1999, (as amended), he is the winner by the majority of lawful votes cast and thus returned elected.
Alternatively, the petitioners are praying for an order directing the INEC to conduct a supplementary election in the polling units where elections were cancelled; the margin of lead between the 2nd respondent and the first petitioner being Iess than the registered voters in the cancelled polling units.
In a further alternative to the reliefs above, the petitioners want a declaration that the election of November 16, 2019, and the subsequent declaration and return of the 2nd respondent are voided by corrupt practices in breach of the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended), which substantially affected the results of the election.
Wada and his party are also asking for an order for fresh elections, the November election having been plagued with corrupt practices, which substantially affected the outcome, according to their petition.