Dismisses PDP, ACN’s Petitions
FOR their inability to prove the various allegations highlighted in their individual petitions against the declaration of governor Olusegun Mimiko as the winner of the last October 20 gubernatorial election in Ondo State, the Election Petition Tribunal sitting over the matter, Friday dismissed the petitions of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), describing them as lacking in substance.
The tribunal therefore upheld the election of Mimiko as declared by the electoral body which conducted the poll and described the petitions against the declaration as lacking in merit and the required ingredients to prove their allegations.
After about 180 days of litigation stipulated by the Electoral Act, the three-man tribunal headed by Justice Andovar Kaka’an, delivered its final verdict amid very tight security at the Court 2, Akure High Court Complex venue which was swarming with many uniformed and plainclothe security operatives to prevent a breakdown of law and order.
The state Police Commissioner, Patrick Dokumo, in his warning to politicians last Thursday to abide by the outcome of the judgment in good faith, had disclosed that security agencies were collaborating with one another to ensure that there was no breakdown of law and order during and after the delivery of judgment.
As the main Hospital Road leading to the tribunal venue was completely cordoned-off, several units of mobile policemen, soldiers and operatives of the Department of State Security (DSS) were either patrolling or on surveillance of the streets of Akure, the state capital, to nip any looming trouble in the bud.
In the verdict of the tribunal which was read by Justice Kaka’an, it was stated that the election had declared Mimiko as the winner of the poll having garnered 260,199 votes to Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of the ACN’s 143,512 and Olusola Oke of the PDP’s 155,961 and having satisfied the constitutional requirement of spread as stipulated by law.
First to be delivered to a courtroom full to the brim with politicians across political party divides, was the judgment on the petition filed by Akeredolu and his ACN which was premised on two grounds that Mimiko not lawfully elected because the poll was conducted in a manner that was not compliant with the provisions of the Electoral Act.
The ACN candidate prayed the tribunal for a rerun of the election through presentation of loads of documents and calling of 41 witnesses to establish allegations of massive irregularities, including disenfranchisement of scores of voters and illegal manipulation of the Voters’ Register used in the exercise through injection of names that were hitherto not in the original register.
After navigating through the arguments of all the counsels in the petition and their submissions in their final addresses, Justice Kaka’an ruled that the petitioner did not prove his case beyond reasonable doubt especially since many of the allegations bordered on criminality which, by law, should be proved beyond any reasonable doubt.
According to the tribunal: “It is clear that the petitioner relied on corrupt practices to push the case but Section 131 (1) of the Evidence Act stipulates that election should not be cancelled if it is not substantially non-compliant with the relevant law.
“Like soccer, it must show goals scored with figures and the petitioner must not only assert but show evidence that the non-compliant, if proved, substantially affected the results and the outcome of the poll.”
The tribunal ruled that for the petitioners to prove that there was non-voting during the poll, the disenfranchised voters must be brought as witnesses and they must show evidences that they were registered but disallowed from voting through the presentation of their unused voters’ cards and the registers in which their names appear.
It was also held that of all the 41 witnesses called, only two who were not in the state during the election tried to establish cases of non-voting thereby making it difficult for the tribunal to accept the allegation of non-accreditation and disenfranchisement.
On the allegations of illegal injection of names to manipulate the Voters’ Register, the tribunal held that the petitioners should have challenged that at the High Court before the election was conducted because the third respondent in the matter, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), had given each party copies of the register on November 20, 2012, 30 days before the election in accordance with the Electoral Act.
Besides submitting that the matter is a pre-election issue that should have been tackled before the poll over which the tribunal has no jurisdiction, the petitioners did not prove how that affected the outcome of the election.
Stressing that it would have been a different case if the petitioners had challenged the alleged flaws noticed in the register before the poll and approached the tribunal with evidences, particularly how it affected the outcome of the exercise with proof of the injected names and who they voted for, the tribunal said with the way it was handled and presented, the allegation held no water.
It also held that to argue that the injected names affected the poll, the petitioners must show that the declared winner was credited with were undeserved votes from a manipulated register.
Summing up the testimonies of the petitioners in the Akeredolu petition who were said not to have provided enough evidences to prove cases bordering on criminality, Justice Kaka’an said “their evidences are manifestly unreliable.”
Speaking specifically on the testimonies of the expert witness called by Akeredolu, Justice Kaka’an said his submissions were made by an interested party who admitted on cross examination that he was engaged for financial considerations and that he was contracted to look for evidences after the petition had already been submitted.
Since the matters thrown up by the petitions had already been streamlined and consolidated, the tribunal applied its verdict on Akeredolu’s petition to similar allegations raised in Oke’s petitions and these included allegations of non-voting, irregularities and alleged injection of hitherto unregistered names.
Delivering judgment specifically on Oke’s petition which was different from Akeredolu’s because the PDP candidate prayed the tribunal to declare him as the winner of the poll, the tribunal held that Oke failed to show to the tribunal why he should be declared as the winner of the election.
According to the tribunal, Oke would have helped his case greatly if he had presented evidences on how he should be announced instead of Mimiko by showing his scores and how he satisfied the constitutional requirements of declaration.
Justice Kaka’an, who dismissed Oke’s petition for lack of merit, said his witnesses were mostly illiterates who knew next to nothing about the conduct of the election they came to testify against and that they spoke from both sides of the mouth.