Kogi Guber Election: SDP, Akpoti Lose to Bello at Election Tribunal

Yahaya Bello

Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Social Democratic Party (SDP) and its candidate in the Kogi State governorship election, Natasha Akpoti, yesterday lost in their bid to nullify the election of the state Governor, Yahaya Bello, as their petition was dismissed by the Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal.

A three-man panel of the tribunal in a unanimous judgment dismissed the petition on the grounds that allegations made against the victory of Bello in the November 16 governorship poll was not proved.

Following the declaration of Bello as the winner of the gubernatorial election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the petitioners, citing electoral malpractices, violence and other abnormalities, approached the tribunal to nullify Bello’s victory and order for a rerun.

Apart from their claim that the election was marred by corrupt practices, violence and over-voting in all the polling units in the 21 local government areas of the state, the petitioners also alleged that Bello and his running mate, Mr. Edward Onoja, were not qualified to contest in the election on the grounds that Onoja gave false information in his Form CF001 submitted to INEC concerning the circumstances of his exit from the banking industry.

Additionally, they claimed that Onoja falsified his age and forged his educational certificate to aid his qualification to stand the election.

However, delivering judgment in the petition yesterday, the panel held that the petitioners failed to substantiate any of their allegations against the victory of Bello, and subsequently dismissed the petition with a cost of N600, 000 in favour of the three respondents.

The respondents are the INEC, All Progressive Congress (APC) and Bello.

According to the tribunal, the petitioners failed to lead credible evidence to prove allegations of corrupt practices and falsification of results in the petition.

In the lead judgment delivered by Justice Ohiamai Ovbiagele, the tribunal also held that exhibits presented in support of the petition were merely dumped on the tribunal since they were not linked with the petition.

On the issue of over voting, the panel further held that none of the 15 witnesses called by the petitioners gave any credible evidence, implying that the allegation was abandoned.

Justice Ovbiagele added that testimonies by many of the witnesses were hearsay devoid of any evidential value, and as such, cannot be relied upon.

He added that some of the witnesses who claimed to have been eyewitnesses of violence at various polling units failed to tender the video evidence they claimed to have, and also failed to tender the voter cards, even though they claimed they voted in the election.

The panel, however, dismissed the allegation of age falsification by Bello and his running mate as well as claim that the running mate was dismissed from the banking industry for want of credible evidence.