Judgment Day: Gov Ododo, Ajaka Know Fate on Monday

The Kogi Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja has fixed 27 May to deliver judgment on the petition filed by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and its governorship candidate, Murtala Ajaka, against the election victory of Gov. Ahmed Usman Ododo.

The three-member panel of justices, headed by Justice Ado Birnin-Kudu, announced the date on Thursday in Abuja in a message communicated to counsel to the parties through its secretary, David Mike, and made available to journalists.

Kogi, on 11 November 2023, held its off-cycle election in which Mr Ododo of the All Progressive Congress (APC) emerged winner beating his closest rival, Mr Ajaka, of the SDP by a wide margin.

Mr Ajaka, dissatisfied with the outcome of the election, filed a petition before the tribunal, challenging Mr Ododo’s victory.

The case, which commenced in December 2023, came to its highest point on 13 May when the SDP, Mr Ajaka, APC, Mr Ododo and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) adopted their final written addresses, after which the tribunal reserved judgement in the petition.

NAN reports that INEC, Mr Ododo and his party, APC, had prayed the tribunal to dismiss Mr Ajaka and SDP’s petition in its entirety for being incompetent and lacking in merit.

INEC, Mr Ododo and the APC through their lawyers; Kanu Agabi, Joseph Daudu, and Emmanuel Ukala, respectively, told the tribunal so while adopting their final written addresses and presenting their arguments against the petition.

However, Mr Ajaka’s lawyer, Pius Akubo, urged the tribunal to discountenance the respondents’ submissions and uphold their petition.

In his argument, INEC’s lawyer, Mr Agabi, told the panel that the petition lacked merit and was incompetent, urging the court to strike it out or dismiss it.

“It is our humble submission that your work in the determination of this petition is simplified in recent judgments by Court of Appeal and Supreme Court,” he said.

He argued that the Appeal Court had decided that if the grounds of a petition are inconsistent with one another and are not consistent with the reliefs, it should be struck out.

He also argued that the evidence of the petitioners was grossly insufficient, citing a Supreme Court decision in a case by Tonye Cole against INEC.

The senior lawyer, who described the case as frivolous, prayed the tribunal to strike out or dismiss the petition for being incompetent.

Mr Ododo, through his counsel, Mr Daudu, also urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition in its entirety.

He argued that the petition was statute-barred (filed out of time).

He also urged the tribunal to dismiss the allegations of forgery against his client, saying it bordered on a pre-election matter, which the apex court had decided in Gbagi’s case against INEC.

Mr Daudu also argued that Section 137 of the Electoral Act cited by the petitioners on allegations of over-voting did not apply in the instant petition.

Also backing Mr Daudu’s submission, Mr Ukala, who represented APC, urged the court to dismiss the petition for lacking in merit.

The petitioners’ lawyer, Mr Akubo, disagreed with Daudu that their petition was filed out of time.

He argued that the respondents themselves confirmed that the petition was filed on 2 December 2023, even by their witness.

“I urge your lordship to hold that we filed this petition within time under our law,” he said.


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