Kogi guber election tribunal reserves judgment
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), at the sitting of the Kogi State Election Tribunal yesterday in Abuja, said there was no evidence that the All Progressive Alliance (APC) (Second Respondent) communicated to it the withdrawal of James Faleke as the party’s running mate in the governorship election, required by law.
In a submission through its Counsel, Alex Izinyon (SAN), INEC said it did not act on the purported letter by Faleke and in fact ignored it.
Izinyon said since it was substitution and not nomination, there was no way the APC would have withdrawn Faleke by law and that the letter of Faleke speaks for Faleke himself.
The Tribunal, held at the premises of a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Jabi, commenced with the adoption of final written addresses by parties involved in the petition.
Counsel to the First Respondent (Governor Yahaya Bello), Joseph Daudu (SAN), began by putting it before the Tribunal that the written address of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), one of the Petitioners in matter, was filed late and after the date had elapsed on May 7, this year.
Chris Uche (SAN), Counsel to Captain Idris Wada, Yomi Awoniyi and PDP (all Petitioners), however, countered by saying that the observation was “is based on erroneous ground.”
Uche argued that they were given seven days to file in the written address, which they had complied with.
Daudu proceeded by stating that the 1st Respondent’s final written address dated May 1 was filed on the same date.
He also said the Petitioner’s written address was filed on May 9.
It would be recalled that the last sitting of the Tribunal on the matter was on April 25.
Daudu, replying on point of law, urged the Tribunal to dismiss the petition against the grounds brought by the Petitioners, which read:
1.Whether the First Petitioner (Wada), being the only surviving candidate with the majority of lawful votes and having polled at least ¼ of the votes cast in 2/3 of all the local government areas of Kogi State, ought not to be declared as having satisfied all the requirements and duly elected in the governorship election held on November 21 and December 5, last year and as such entitled to Certificate of Return as elected governor of Kogi State.
2. Whether Bello, not having been a candidate at the election of November 21, last year and not having participated in all the stages of the said election, was qualified to contest the election into the office of Governor of Kogi State and be returned as duly in the said office.
3. Whether Bello, having no associate for his running for office of the Governor of Kogi State in the supplementary election of December 5 or at all at the material time to occupy the office of Deputy Governor, was qualified to contest the election into office of Kogi State, let alone return as duly elected in the said election.
4. Whether the return of Bello as elected Governor of Kogi State is not invalid by reason of substantial non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
“Our submission is that we have relied on the Supreme Court’s decision of 2014 18 Nigeria Weekly Law Report (NWLR).
“We rely on the authority that the position of the law has changed. Votes are no longer for the candidate, but for the party.”
Referring to the ruling of the Supreme Court on Rotimi Amaechi, Daudu argued that Amaechi was vindicated by the apex court.
He posited that the case of Agbaje in 2016 had followed, where in the NWLR, the apex court had referred to Amaechi in Agbaje’s case.
“People challenging qualification are only ‘giraffing.’ We urge your lordship to dismiss the petition.”
Counsel to the Second Respondent, Chief Akinlolu Olujimi (SAN), who filed his final written address on April 30, aligned himself with the submission of the First Respondent and also pointed out the issue of qualification, which is Issue 3 by the Petitioners, that Bello had no running mate in the election.
He said: “Section 187 has nothing to do with qualification for election; Section 182 has settled it all. Section 187 only refers to nomination.
“You can only challenge that before election. You cannot challenge that after election has been conducted.
“The candidate of the Second Respondent was substituted when Audu passed on.
“Section 33 of the Electoral Act does not require that substituted candidate need to begin again.
“Section 35 of the Electoral Act, which provides for withdrawal, gives a time limitation for it, contrary to the argument that Faleke has withdrawn from the election. It is totally false.
“The time passed on Faleke, so he never withdrew. He remained candidate throughout the election.
“I urge the Tribunal to dismiss this petition.”
Counsel to the Third Respondent, Izinyon, who filed his written address on May 11, also replied on point of law, saying: “Our submission is that based on the evidence of the First and Second Respondents before the Tribunal, it is clear that INEC does not do substitution, but the political party.
“There was no evidence that APC (Second Respondent) communicated to INEC of the withdrawal of Faleke, as required by law. That is why INEC did not act on the purported letter by Faleke. It ignored it.
“Since it was substitution and not nomination, there is no way the APC would have withdrawn Faleke by law. The letter of Faleke speaks for himself.”
Uche, in response to written addresses by all three respondents, urged the Tribunal to hold that the Petitioner has proved their case and grant the petition.
He urged the Tribunal to discountenance the replies of the Respondents and also urged the Tribunal to consider issues raised by the Petitioner and enter judgment for it or in the alternative, order for a fresh election to allow the people of Kogi State choose their legitimate leader.
The Tribunal, after entertaining the arguments of the parties, reserved judgment, but will sit on Monday 16.
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