Kogi guber: Tribunal to give verdict in Ajaka, Ododo tussle Monday

The Kogi Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in Abuja has scheduled a hearing on May 27 to rule on the petition brought by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and its governorship candidate, Murtala Ajaka, challenging Gov. Usman Ododo’s election victory.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In his argument, INEC’s lawyer, Chief Agabi, had told the panel that the petition lacked merit and 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 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 were 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.

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

Adumbrating, he had 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 pre-election matter, which the apex court had decided in Gbagi’s case against INEC.

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

The petitioners’ lawyer, 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 Dec. 2, 2023, even by their own witness.

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

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