Tribunal voids election of Benue APC senator

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The National/State Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Makurdi has voided the election of Sen. Emmanuel Udende of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Benue North-East Senate seat.
Delivering judgement on Friday in Makurdi, the tribunal Chairman, Justice Ory’zik Ikeorha, declared former Gov. Gabriel Suswam of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner of Feb. 25 election.
Ikeorha held that the petitioners fulfilled the requirements of the law by proving the ingredients of their petition against Udende and ordered INEC to issue a Certificate of Return to Suswam.
She said that the evidence presented by the petitioners had clearly proven cases of over voting, alterations and mutilation of results in 5 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in the senatorial district during the election.
She listed the LGAs to include: Ushongo, Kwande, Katsina-Ala, Ukum and Vandekiya, adding that the petitioners were able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that there were clear evidences of over voting, alteration of results and mutilation of results in the LGAs.
Ikeorha said that in the five LGAs, Udende polled 51, 895 votes, while Suswam scored 21,229 votes.
The tribunal subtracted 51, 895 votes from the respondent’s total result and 21, 229 votes from the petitioner’s total result, as earlier declared by INEC.
Ikeorha said after the subtraction, Suswam scored 90, 590 votes, while Udende scored 82, 699 votes and therefore declared Suswam as the winner of the Feb. 25 election.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Udende winner of the election with 135, 573 votes, while Suswam polled 112,231 votes.
Suswam and PDP’s petitions were predicated on the ground that Udende did not score majority of the lawful votes cast during the election.
The petitioners had called 19 witnesses to buttress their case and challenged the results that were declared in 474 polling units in five LGAs out of the 1844 poling units in the senatorial district.

However, Justice Umar Mohammed, a member of the panel, delivered a dissenting judgement by dismissing the petition and awarding N100, 000 cost in favour of each of the respondents.
He said that the evidences filed by PDP and Suswam were grossly insufficient to sustain their petition and such irregularities should not be assumed.
He said that Suswam called 19 witnesses but most of them were irrelevant, adding that the irregularities complained of were at the polling units but the petitioner called ward agents, instead of polling unit agents.

”The law is that the proper person to give account of the irregularities are polling unit agents, as ward agents are not allowed to “give global account” of what happened at polling units.

“Evidence of 19 witnesses, who were not party to the malpractices, which were said to have occurred in over 400 polling units cannot substantiate the petition. No magic can be done. ”Evidence grossly insufficient to sustain the petition. I see no merit in the petition.

”I will not be moved by the petitioners to interrogate their address page-by-page, after they failed to do the needful by their failing to breath life into the documents they tendered.

”The petition is therefore dismissed, with award of 100k cost in favour of each of the respondents and against the petitioners,” he said.

The judge also held that Suswam’s PW9’s statement on oath was not front loaded alongside the petition and should not form part of the petition.

He held that the fact that documents were admitted in evidence from the bar does not mean that value be attached to them without putting life in them.
Udende’s counsel Innocent Daagba, said he was dissatisfied with the judgement and would appeal against it. (NAN)

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