Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti
Former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Minority Leader in the Senate, Senator Biodun Olujimi, and PDP have asked the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal (NAEPT) sitting in Ado Ekiti to declare her the winner of the 2019 senatorial election in Ekiti South Senatorial District, which was held on February 23, 2019.
Olujimi and PDP are challenging the election of Senatorial Candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Adedayo Adeyeye, on allegations of serious of electoral fraud perpetrated during the poll.
Their petition is contained in a 35-page final written address that was filed and argued by Prof. Wahab Egbewole (SAN) before the NAEPT in Ado Ekiti on Wednesday, August 21.
The petitioners claimed that they have proved their case based on balance of probability and weight of evidence adduced during hearing of the petition which argued that the said election was marred by irregularities contrary to the provisions of the electoral laws.
Two major issues for determination in the suit before the three-member tribunal, led by Hon. Justice D.D Adeck include: “Whether the election and return of the 2nd respondent as the winner of the election held on the 23rd of February 2019 into Ekiti South Senatorial District is not invalid by reasons of substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended); the Regulation and Guidelines for the conduct of elections and Manual for election officials 2019, which substantially affected the return of the 2nd Respondent election having not scored the majority of the lawful votes cast at the said election.
“Whether after reconciliation and deduction of total votes affected by the substantial non-compliance of the 1st Petitioner not to be declared as duly elected and should be returned as the candidate who scored the highest number of lawful votes cast at the Ekiti South Senatorial District Election of 23rd February 2019 having satisfied the requirement of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended and the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended.”
The case has now been adjourned for judgment to a date to be communicated to the parties in the suit through the Registry of the Tribunal.
However, the Lawyer to the Respondent, Barr. Raheem Balogun, has urged the tribunal to strike out the petition for lack of merit.
Balogun argued that the failure of the petitioners to establish the cases of non-compliance and criminal conducts during the said election and how it affected the outcome of the election, rendered it incompetent.
“If you read the petitioner’s application, he said no election was held at all in all the units and it contradicted herself by asking for declaration when no election was held in her claim.
“She said in the alternative that the court should nullify the election and order fresh election. This further makes the petition to lack merit, because if the court nullifies on the basis of non-compliance, the court will order fresh election and no declaration can be made.
“If you read through the petition, it consists of criminal and civil allegations, because she said Independent National Electoral Commission subtracted her votes while also proving non-compliance. Having failed to sever the criminal allegation from the civil through a motion rendered it invalid.
“In summary, the petitioners failed to prove the myriad of criminal and non-compliance allegations as required by law. They failed woefully to prove these and the petition should be struck out on this basis,” he said.