Emmanuel Adeyemi, Lokoja
The Kogi State election tribunal has given Senator Dino Melaye, the People’s Democratic Party and INEC 15 days to open and close their defence in a case brought before it challenging the February 23 election of the senator.
Senator Smart Adeyemi of All Progressives Congress had approached the tribunal urging it to nullify the election of Dino Melaye on the grounds that collation and announcement of the election result was done in Lokoja instead of Kabba the senatorial headquarters contrary to the ruling of Federal High Court.
Adeyemi also averred that the total votes cast at the election was far more than the total registered voters in the INEC register, stressing that the election was fraught with irregularities and manipulations and then prayed the tribunal to nullify the election and order a fresh one.
The chairman of the tribunal, Justice O A Chijioke listened to the arguments as the petitioner closed his case before the tribunal.
Counsel to Adeyemi, Chief Toyin Adeniyi, before closing his case called for three witnesses: Senator Smart Adeyemi (star witness), the Director-General Adeyemi Campaign Organisation, Mr. Adoga Ibrahim and the Kogi West zonal Chairman of APC, Mr. Ropo Asala, who were also cross-examined by the respondent’s counsels.
Adeyemi’s counsel likewise pleaded for the admissibility of February 15, 2019, Federal High Court judgement which declared that elections collation, announcement and other matters as regards Kogi West election should be carried out at the district headquarters in Kabba and not in Lokoja, which was ignored by INEC. This he said ran contrary to the electoral act and the constitution.
He said the change of collation centers gave room for all the manipulations, tampering, mutilation of results sheets in favour of the alleged winner.
He also prayed the court to admit INEC letter of certified true copy of the list of PVC distributions in the senatorial axis which indicate over voting in three of the challenged LGAs of Yagba West, Lokoja and Ijumu.
The tribunal had earlier during the trial accepted the INEC certified copy of PVC distributions in the senatorial axis.
However, counsel to 2nd and 3rd respondents, (PDP and INEC) did not challenge the admissibility of the Federal High Court judgment but asked the tribunal to reject INEC letter of PVC distribution because it was not “listed or front-loaded” by the petitioner’s at the beginning of the petition.
Chairman of the three-man panel, Justice O A Chijoke, readmitted the February 15 High Court judgment as evidence but declined to accept INEC letter of PVC distribution, saying it should be marked as “tendered but rejected.”
The tribunal subsequently adjourned to June 10 and gave the respondents (Dino, PDP, INEC) 15 days to open and close their defenses.