Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Kogi State National Assembly/State Assembly Election Petition Tribunal on Friday voided the election of Dino Melaye as the Senator representing Kogi West Senatorial District.
In a unanimous judgment, the three-man tribunal held that the election that produced Melaye of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as a Senator was flawed.
The Justice A.O. Chijioke-led tribunal upheld the petition by Senator Smart Adeyemi of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a fresh election.
Counsel to Adeyemi, Dapo Otitoju had, while making his final submission on July 23, 2019, prayed the court to nullify the election on three grounds.
The first ground, the lawyer argued, was that INEC’s decision to collate and announce the election’s results in Lokoja despite a judgment of the Federal High Court identifying Kabba as the headquarters of the senatorial district, was a negation of the Constitution and Electoral Acts, which constitutes a substantial ground to nullify the election.
The lawyer argued that INEC’s failure to abide by the judgment of the Federal High Court, which it did not appeal, showed it had a hidden agenda.
Secondly, Otitoju argued that the presentation of the certified true copy of PVC distribution in Kogi West which revealed 48,200 excess votes in the result declared for the senatorial district was enough reason for the tribunal to nullify the election.
Lawyer to Melaye, Professor Joash Amupitan (SAN), who made a counter-argument, prayed the tribunal to dismiss the petition, and argued that the documents presented by the petitioners were “mere hearsay documents.”
He urged the court to hold that his client was validly elected.
By the judgement on Friday, Melaye is allowed, under the Electoral Act, 14 days within which to appeal the decision. The Court of Appeal, which is the final court in national and state legislative elections cases, has 60 days from the day of judgment, to determine the appeal.
In a statement he issued in reaction to the judgement, Melaye described the tribunal’s decision as a total miscarriage of justice. He said: “The judgement is full of importation of informations that are alien to the case.
“I however commend the courage and moral strength of the chairman of the tribunal for resisting evil and standing on the path of justice.
“I have confidence in the Appeal Court to right the wrongs contained in the pronouncements of the judgement. I also want to tell those jubilating that their jubilation will be short-lived while appealing to my teeming supporters to remain calm as their mandate is safe and secured and cannot be taken through any mischievous means. However, our legal team is already working on appealing the judgment and I assure all that justice will prevail.”