Kogi Poll: INEC Tenders Documents against SDP, Ajaka’s Petition at Tribunal

Ibrahim Oyewale in Lokoja

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday tendered electoral documents against the petition by the Kogi State Social Democratic Party (SDP) and its candidate, Murtala Ajaka, challenging the election victory of the state Governor, Usman Ododo.

INEC’s counsel, Uchenna  Njoku, who held the brief for Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), tendered the documents before the Kogi State Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja.

INEC had conducted the state governorship election on November 11, 2023.

However, the SDP and its governorship candidate in the poll are challenging the declaration of Ododo of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of the poll.

In the petition, INEC, Ododo and APC are listed as 1st to 3rd respondents respectively.

Some of the documents tendered yesterday by the commission’s lawyer before the three-member panel of justices, led by Justice Ado Birnin-Kudu, included INEC Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of the Election; INEC Manuals for Electoral Officers and INEC Form EC8C.

Others were INEC Form EC8B; INEC Form EC8E; List of Accredited Agents for SDP; List of Accredited Ward Agents; and Receipts of Payment for Forms, among others.

After the documents were tendered, Justice Birnin-Kudu admitted them in evidence and marked them as exhibits.

Njoku then applied for an adjournment to enable the electoral umpire to present its witnesses on the next adjourned date.

The Judge adjourned the matter until April 16 for the continuation of the hearing.

Earlier, Justice Birnin-Kudu, who observed that the SDP’s petition would elapse on May 29, said there was the need to amend the number of days earlier given for the 2nd and 3rd respondents to present their case, and for the filing of the final written addresses of the parties.

He, therefore, reduced the number of days to five instead of the earlier 10 days given for the respondents’ lawyers to present their cases.

Birnin-Kudu promised that where five days would not be enough, the panel would not hesitate to give additional days.

He solicited the cooperation of the parties in this regard.

But APC’s counsel, Emmanuel Ukala (SAN), pleaded with the tribunal not to reduce the earlier days given to prepare their defence.

Ukala, who pledged the cooperation of the respondents in ensuring the timely completion of their case, pleaded that the order on the schedule for the hearing should not be amended.

J.B. Daudu (SAN) led the team of Governor Ododo’s counsel. The panel, however, clarified that the amendment to the order was done off record.

SDP and Ajaka had on April 5 closed their case after calling 25 witnesses.

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