Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti
A National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State has nullified the election that produced Senator Dayo Adeyeye of All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of the National Assembly election in Ekiti South Senatorial District.
Subsequently, the tribunal in a unanimous verdict declared former Minority Leader and the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Biodun Olujimi, as the authentic winner of the February 23 election in the district.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Adeyeye as winner of the election, but Olujimi approached the tribunal craving that she should be declared the actual winner of the election.
She submitted that she scored the highest number of lawful votes cast during the keenly contested poll.
In the alternative, Olujimi prayed the tribunal to outrightly nullify Adeyeye’s victory and order a supplementary election accordingly in the district.
In her written address, the petitioner claimed that the election was not conducted in substantial compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, having been allegedly fraught with all manners of irregularities.
She prayed the tribunal to annul votes in areas that were found to be incredibly marked with irregularities like over-voting, multiple thump printing, ballot snatching, ballot stuffing and improper ballot counting and others, so as to know the actual winner of the poll.
The petitioner also accused the INEC of dereliction of duties, saying most of the documents used for the conduct of the election were not duly signed by party agents.
But the respondents countered the submission, saying INEC did what was right and constitutional, by declaring the candidate of the APC the winner having found to have got the highest number of lawful votes.
Delivering the judgement, the three-man tribunal led by Justice D.D. Adeck, nullified elections in some polling units to declare Olujimi the authentic winner of the polls.
Eventually, Olujimi polled a total of 54,894 to emerge victorious over the Senate Committee Chairman on Media and Publicity, who polled 52,243.
Justice Adeck added that apart from the nullification in some units, the outcome of the tribunal’s verdict was predicated on the recount of the ballots by the contending forces as granted by the court.
The tribunal chairman said for the petitioner to be so declared, she must prove those cases of criminal allegations of non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act and other corrupt practices raised in her petition beyond reasonable doubt, which, he said, she did.
The tribunal said in Ikere, Gbonyin and Emure local government areas of the state, the petitioner was able to prove cases of over-voting and votes in those units were expunged from the ballots.
On the voting patterns, the tribunal said: “It is not tenable to say that marked ballots were not properly deposited in the boxes because when this did not happen, then it will lead to over-voting and will affect counting at every level of collation.
“To avoid this pitfall, those elections must be expunged in order not to vitiate the electoral process. Therefore, after those votes were deducted, PDP was left with 54,894 while the respondent polled 52,243.
“The petitioner having polled the highest number of lawful votes should be declared the winner of the election.
“We hereby declare the petitioner the winner and he is hereby returned elected.
“We hereby direct the INEC to withdraw the certificate of return from the respondent and issue same to the petitioner,” he said.