Alex Enumah and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday said it would appeal the judgement of Ekiti State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja which upheld the election of Kayode Fayemi as the duly elected Governor of Ekiti State.
The three-man panel of the tribunal in a unanimous decision dismissed the suit filed by the PDP and its candidate, Prof. Olubunmi Kolapo Olusola.
The tribunal held that the various allegations raised against the elections by the petitioners, were not proved as required by law, adding that worthless documents were dumped at the tribunal.
The Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Suleiman Bolaji Belgore, said that contrary to the claims by the petitioners, Fayemi was duly and lawfully returned as winner of majority votes by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The tribunal specifically said that Fayemi scored 197,459 as against 178,121 votes scored by Olusola in the election conducted by INEC on July 14,2018.
In its judgment the tribunal said the plaintiffs failed to established the allegations of corruption, malpractices, ballot box snatching, non-accreditation, over voting and deliberate voiding of votes, made against the defendants.
Justice Belgore noted that the petitioners only called 71 witnesses as against 926 listed to be invited to testify for them, adding that the 71 witnesses were scanty and insufficient to establish the fact of the various issues raised in the petition.
“Out of 2,158 polling units in the state, the conduct of the election was challenged in 1,458 units, while only 41 polling agents were called to testify as to what transpired in the areas in dispute”, the tribunal noted.
The judge held that calling 41 polling agents as witnesses out of 1,458 polling units was fatal to the case of the petitioners because the 41 agents invited as witnesses were too scanty and grossly few to make any impact in the petition.
Besides, the tribunal also held that written depositions by the petitioners’ witnesses were haphazardly done and in the process no probative value could be attached to the depositions by the tribunal.
The tribunal added that all the witnesses called by the plaintiffs all voted unhindered and never told the tribunal of harassment, molestation, thuggery and other forms of electoral malpractice as alleged by the petitioners.
Justice Belgore dismissed the claims by the petitioners that Fayemi at the time of the election was not qualified to stand for governorship election on the ground of his alleged indictment by the Justice Oyewole Commission of Inquiry.
The judge held that Section 182 of the 1999 Constitution relied upon by the petitioners to get the APC candidate disqualified had been deleted by the alteration done to the constitution on July 16,2010 by the National Assembly when the alteration took effect.
The judge further said that apart from the fact that the aspect of the law had been deleted, a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in a judgment delivered by Justice Othman Musa had nullified and set aside the report of the commission of inquiry on the ground that it was biased against Governor Fayemi.
The tribunal stated that before arriving at its conclusion it took a careful look at the report, which prohibited Fayemi from holding public office for 10 years and found that the recommendation for the ban was due to non-appearance of Fayemi before the commission of inquiry and not on embezzlement of public funds as required by the law.
In all, the tribunal held that the petitioners failed to prove that they scored higher number of votes in the election and that they also failed to prove that Fayemi was not validly returned as the winner.
But reacting to the judgment, the PDP said that though the judiciary was passing through a trying time under the dictatorial tendencies of the Muhammadu Buhari presidency, it urged the lord justices to stand for justice by restoring the mandate freely given to the PDP candidate, Olusola Eleka, at the July 14, 2018 governorship election in Ekiti State.
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement yesterday said the judgment of the tribunal would surely be overturned at the Court of Appeal and victory handed to the PDP and its candidate.
According to him, “The Court of Appeal will consider the matter strictly on its merit, particularly with the abounding evidence of rigging including violence, vote-buying, ballot stuffing and alteration of results perpetrated by the APC are still intact.”
The PDP stressed that the entire nation and the international community had widely condemned the manipulation that marred the Ekiti governorship election, believing that justice would be served at the end of the day.