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Appeal court affirms Ododo’s election victory

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The Court of Appeal, Abuja on Thursday, affirmed Usman Ododo of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the validly elected governor of Kogi.

A three-member panel of the court, in a unanimous judgement delivered by Justice Onyekachi Otisi, held that the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and its governorship candidate, Murtala Ajaka, failed to prove the allegations contained in their appeal beyond reasonable doubt as required by law.

The Appeal Court equally dismissed the appeals filed by Action Alliance (AA) and its governorship candidate, Olayinka Braimoh; and that of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and its governorship candidate, Dr Abdullahi Bayawo, challenging Ododo’s victory.

Justice Otisi, while delivering judgment on SDP and Ajaka”s appeal, agreed with the Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal which sat in Abuja.

The judge said the tribunal was right to have expunged the evidence of the 1st prosecution witness (PW-1) called by the petitioners on the ground that the evidence tendered by the witness was a documentary hearsay.

She said witnesses, whether subpoenaed or normal, are supposed to front-load their witness statements on oath as required by law.

“The order of the tribunal expunging the evidence of the PW-1 cannot be voided.

“The law grants the lower court power to expunge inadmissible evidence brought before it,” she said.

The judge held that the petitioners’ witnesses were incompetent because their statements did not accompany the petition in line with the electoral laws

She agreed with the tribunal that there were inconsistencies in the case of the appellants.

According to her, the allegation of forgery of document that Ododo submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is a pre-election matter which is handled by the Federal High Court and not the tribunal.

The said action, Justice Otisi held, happened before the conduct of the Nov. 11, 2023 governorship election in the state and as such, cannot be legislated upon by the lower tribunal.

The judge also held that allegation of forgery of document ought to be proven beyond reasonable doubt.

“This, the appellants failed to do as required by law.

“Affidavit of lost attached to Form EC8 by the 2nd defendant (Ododo) is by no means a certificate.

“I see no reason to disturb the decision of the lower tribunal on the petition as the appellants have failed to prove their allegations contained in their petition”, the appellate court held.

Justice Otisi subsequently resolved all the issues raised in the appeal against the appellants.

“This appeal failed and it is hereby dismissed for lacking in merit.

“There is no order as to cost, parties are to bear their respective cost”, Justice Otisi held.

The tribunal had, on May 27, affirmed the victory of Governor Ododo of APC in the November 11, 2023 Kogi governorship poll.

The three-member panel of justices, headed by Justice Ado Birnin-Kudu, held that the petition was bereft of substance and accordingly dismissed it.

The tribunal held that SDP and Ajaka failed to prove the allegations of over-voting and non-compliance with the Electoral Act, 2022 in the petition.

The panel, in a unanimous, decision held that all the witness evidence filed before it were incompetent and full of inconsistencies.

It also agreed with the submissions of the respondents that the allegations of forgery raised in the petition were pre-election matter, which ought to have been raised 14 days after the documents were submitted to INEC.

Kogi had, on November 11, 2023, held its off-cycle election in which Ododo of the APC emerged winner, beating his closest rival, Ajaka of the SDP with a wide margin.

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