SDP, Akpoti Fail in Bid to Unseat Yahaya Bello
The Social Democratic Party (SDP) and its candidate in the November 16, 2019 governorship election in Kogi State, Natasha Akpoti failed on Monday in their bid to unseat Governor Yahaya Bello.
In a judgment, the Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in Abuja dismissed the petition by the SDP and Akpoti, with which they had challenged the outcome of the election won by Yahaya Bello of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
The three-man tribunal, led by Justice Kashim Kaigama, was unanimous in dismissing the petition after concluding that it was without merit and the petitioners failed to establish their case against the respondents.
The court resolved the two issues, identified for determination, against the petitioners.
Justice Ohiamai Ovbiagele held, in the lead judgment, that the petitioners failed to prove their claims that the election was marred by corrupt practices, with emphasis on violence and falsification of results with credible evidence.
Justice Ovbiagele was of the view that the petitioners merely dumped their exhibits on the tribunal without demonstrating them before the court and linking them to the specific part of their case as required.
The judge held that none of the petitioners’ 15 witnesses gave any evidence concerning over-voting, which implied that the allegation was abandoned.
He held that testimonies by many of the witnesses were “patently hearsay devoid of any evidential value”, while those of some others were “ludicrous”, “unreliable”, and “doubtful”
Justice Ovbiagele added that the witnesses “are all doubtful illogical and some instances patently unreasonable.”
He noted that some of the witnesses, who claimed to have been eyewitnesses of the alleged violence recorded at the various polling units, failed to tender the video evidence they claimed to have and also failed to tender the voter cards, even though they claimed they voted in the election.
The judge who said “any voter without a voter card should not be taken seriously,” held that the attempt by the petitioners to “to prove their case without calling their polling unit agents as witnesses, as required by law, was absurd.
Justice Ovbiagele said: “the pieces of evidence that emanated from the cross-examination of all the petitioners’ witnesses, like a dynamite, shattered the testimonies of these witnesses.”
He dismissed the petitioners’ allegation of age falsification against Bello and his running mate, on the grounds that they (the petitioners) failed to prove that either Bello or his running mate was less than 35 years old as when the election held.
The judge also dismissed the petitioners’ claim that Bello’s running mate Edward Onoja made false claim in his Form CF001 submitted to INEC that he retired from his banking job, when he was allegedly dismissed.
Justice Ovbiagele proceeded to award a cost of N100,000 against each of the two petitioners, to be paid to each of the three respondents – the Independent National Electoral Commission, the APC and Bello.
The tribunal is now left with the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Musa Wada.
The tribunal has reserved judgment in the petition and promised to inform parties when the judgment is ready for delivery.