Eleven witnesses have so far told the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Lagos that there was no need for the re-run election of April 27, arguing that the one conducted on February 23, which produced Hon. Rita Orji as the winner according to results announced at the polling units was peaceful.
The petitioners are contending before the tribunal chaired by Kunaza N. Hamidu, that the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) has no legal right to cancel an election, which results have been announced, since that legal responsibility is reserved for the court.
They insisted that the alleged re-run election to elect House of Representatives member for Ajeromi-Ifelodun Federal Constituency on April 27 was marred by massive electoral malpractices, including threat to voters and agents of other political parties, especially the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) agents, supporters, and non-indigenes.
“I was told that if I came closer, they would kill me; that this is not our land. And, when I called the attention of the police officer attached to my polling unit, he was threatened that his uniform could be removed if he intervened,” one of the witnesses told the tribunal.
Hon. Orji, who represented Ajeromi-Ifelodun Federal Constituency of Lagos State at the 8th National Assembly and PDP are the petitioners, while the INEC, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Hon. Kolawole Taiwo are the respondents.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Pedro Lawan, who represented Taiwo, explained that part of the grounds for the respondents’ defence was that there was no proper election on February 23 due to logistics problems encountered by the election umpire, like late arrival of election materials and non-emergence of a clear winner, due to the insignificant margin.
He, however, stated that unlike the February 23 election, there were sufficient materials, manpower, security officials during the April 27 re-run election, in which the APC candidate emerged winner, looking at the number of registered voters and actual voting at both elections.
He said while any aggrieved party has the right to approach the court, there was ordinarily no need for the petition because the petitioners admitted in their evidence that there was no results in at least 19 polling units, and no report of violence was made at the police.
Earlier, INEC had declared the February 23 House of Representatives election in the constituency, inconclusive, giving over-voting, non-compliance with the usage of smart card readers and violence as reasons.
Based on that ground, the Federal High Court, Abuja presided over by Justice Bello Kawu ordered the INEC to declare the collated results of Ajeromi-Ifelodun constituency, as well as pay N250, 000 to Orji.
INEC declared the results but did not pronounce any winner, rather, it went ahead later to conduct the supplementary election in 71 polling units across eight wards, after which, it declared the APC candidate, Mr. Kolawole Taiwo, winner of Ajeromi-Ifelodun Federal Constituency of Lagos State for the House of Representatives seat. The supplementary election is what the witnesses said was marred by violence and malpractices.
The Returning Officer for the elections, Prof. Olusoji Ilori, announced that Taiwo polled a total of 36,115 votes to defeat the PDP candidate, Mrs. Orji, who got 32,557 votes.
Ilori added that Mr. Matin Iwonlaye of Accord Party had 587 votes, Mr. Jimoh Rasheed of PPN got 206 votes, Mr. David Kola of AD polled 158 votes, and Mr. Michael Ogoeke of APP polled 149 votes, while Ms Julie King of APDA polled 112 votes.
According to him, Mr. Adebayo Adegbenro of ADC scored 107 votes, Mr. Kennedy Nzemiro of PPC had 90 votes, Mr. Morenikeji Oluwole of MPN had 39 votes, and Mr. Jacob Ogundiran of DPC scored 17 votes, while Ms Victoria Oladipupo of DA, polled 06 votes.