George Okoh in Makurdi
A National and State Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Makurdi, Benue State capital has nullified the election of the Deputy Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Mr. Chris Adaji of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Adaji as the winner of the March 9 poll with 397 votes and cancelled 1,056 votes in the two polling units of Igbanomaje and Odega.
But delivering its judgement yesterday, the Tribunal led by Justice R. O. Odudu, held that the margin with which Adaji led Musa Alechenu Ohimini of All Progressives Congress (APC) was less than the number of votes cancelled.
The Tribunal said INEC ought to have ordered for a rerun in the affected polling units or declared the election inconclusive.
Justice Odudu held that the declaration and return of Adaji without a rerun in Otega and Ogadagba ward is invalid by reason of non-substantial compliance with the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended). The Tribunal, therefore, issued an order for the withdrawal of certificate of return issued to Adaji and an order directing INEC to conduct a rerun in the two polling units where elections were cancelled within 90 days.
Vincent Tortsugh, who appeared for the petitioners, described the decision of the Tribunal as “reasonable,” adding that “we didn’t expect anything other than this.”
The APC candidate described the decision as a testimony of the wishes of the people, saying by the decision, the judiciary has reaffirmed that it remains the last hope of the people.
“I want to appreciate the Tribunal for the good job done. Let me appreciate the people of Ohimini for standing behind me during the period of the legal struggle,” Alechenu said, while insisting that he would win the rerun.
Adaji’s counsel, Ken Ikonne said he would consult his client before taking any further decision.