Kogi Tribunal: Ajaka Closes Case, Ododo to Open Defence April 15

Murtala Ajaka, Usman Ododo

Governor Ahmed Usman Ododo and his party, the All Progressives Congress, will on April 15 open their defence at the state’s governorship election tribunal sitting in Abuja against the petition filed by Murtala Yakubu Ajaka of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

The SDP and its candidate in the November 11, 2023 governorship election, Muritala Ajaka, are challenging the declaration of Ododo as the winner of the poll.

Ododo won the election with 446,237 votes to defeat his closest rival, Ajaka, who scored 259,052 while Dino Melaye of the Peoples Democratic Party polled 46,362 votes to emerge a distant third.

The three-member tribunal chaired by Justice Ado Birnin-Kudu fixed the date on Friday after the SDP and Ajaka closed their case.

The petitioners, who had initially said they had 400 witnesses, called only 25 witnesses.

The petition listed the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC), Ododo, and APC as first to third respondents, respectively.

When the case was called on Friday, counsel for INEC, Kanu Agabi(SAN); Ododo’s lawyer, Alex Iziyon (SAN ), and their APC counterpart, Emmanuel Ukala( SAN) opposed the move by Jibrin Okutepa (SAN) to lead the witness, a digital forensic expert, Edidiong Udoh, in evidence.

They argued that the petitioners did not list the name of the witness in its proof of evidence, and the witness statement on oath was not front-loaded alongside the petition.

They also contended that the counsel for the petitioners served them the reports of his analysis 20 minutes before the commencement of the proceedings.

But Okutepa insisted that the forensic expert was listed on page 56 of the petition as item 10, adding that his statement was also front-loaded.

He, however, admitted that the report was served on the respondents a few minutes before the proceedings.

The lawyer, therefore, prayed the tribunal to allow him to lead Udoh in evidence and stand down the matter for 30 minutes for the respondents to study the report.

Udoh, before adopting his statement on oath, appealed to the tribunal to allow him to amend Paragraph 7, Line 3 of his statement on oath, which he submitted on January 12, 2024.

“The particular words that I used were not proper. I said, ‘There was some very suspicious software.’ I apply to change it to ‘there was no suspicious software used,’” he prayed.

But Agabi, Iziyon, and Ukala disagreed with Udoh’s oral application.

“If this kind of amendment is permissible, then there is no kind of amendment that cannot be permissible,” Agabi said.

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