Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
The National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Makurdi, the Benue State capital on Tuesday dismissed the petition filed by Mimi Orubibi of the All Progressives Congress, (APC) challenging the election of former Benue State Governor, Sen. Gabriel Suswam of the People’s Democratic Party.
Orubibi had approached the tribunal on the allegation that the election of Sen. Suswam who represents Benue North East senatorial district was marred by corrupt practices and criminality such as over-voting, falsification of results, infractions, use of thugs as well as snatching of ballot boxes.
The former Benue State Internal Revenue Service (BIRS) chairman also alleged that vote inflation occurred during the transmission of results by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), noting that there were over voting of 4,993 votes in Katsina-Ala and Logo local government areas during the election held on 23 February, 2019.
In the over two-hour judgement, Chairman of the tribunal Justice R. O. Odugwu held that the state of the law as regards election petition, the petitioners have the duty to proof by polling units and council ward, adding that it must be done on a balance of probability.
“The petitioner must show that figure were enough for us to prove substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act. They carry the heavy burden. Allegation of criminality was not proved beyond a reasonable doubt by the petitioners.
“The claims of unlawful votes of 80,000 in over 400 polling units by the petitioners is not true. The figure was conjured by the petitioners and not even pleaded. The petitioners did not relate the document as pleaded in the petition.
“They did not prove the issue of falsification of results before the tribunal to enable it to resolve the issue in their favour. Over voting cannot be proved by card reader alone but also by the use of voter register. How the result will swing in favour of the petitioners is still a mirage to the tribunal as the margin of win is enormous.
“The petition is not worth wasting judicial effort on. It is helpless and hopeless and is hereby, dismissed for lacking in merit. I award a cost of N100,000 to each of the respondents”, the tribunal held.
The tribunal panel has Justice R. O. Odugwu as Chairman, Justice M. A. Onyetenu, member and Justice Esther Tata also as a member.