The tribunal found that the evidences brought forward by the petitioners could not be substantiated beyond reasonable doubt.
The Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Akure, Ondo State, has dismissed the petitions of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, candidate, Olusola Oke, and that of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, and its candidate, Rotimi Akeredolu, against the re-election of Governor Olusegun Mimiko.
The tribunal presided over by Justice Andovar Kaka’an, in the judgement read by him for five hours on the consolidated hearing of the petitions, subsequently upheld the return of Mr. Mimiko as the duly elected governor of Ondo State as declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
However, the petitioners, in reaction, have vowed to challenge the judgment of the three-man tribunal at the appellate court.
The tribunal held that the petitioners failed to prove the allegations of malpractices, violence, irregularities, non-compliance of the election with the Electoral Act as amended among other allegations, beyond reasonable doubt.
The judge said the responsibilities of proving the stated allegations beyond reasonable doubt and to convince the panel that those alleged acts actually took place, fell substantially on the petitioners.
Mr. Kaka’an held that many of the petitioners’ witnesses who gave evidences before the tribunal did not actually witness the alleged acts but relied substantially on hearsay which is not admissible in law.
He averred that the testimonies of the petitioners’ witnesses were at variance with the pleadings in the petition and full of contradictions which made the testimonies unreliable and they were subsequently discountenanced.
He said allegation of injection of new names into the voter register used for the 2011 Election was a pre-election matter.
According to him, since all the political parties were given the voter register about 30 days before the election in line with the Electoral Act as amended, the aggrieved parties ought to have challenged this at the high court.
He consequently ruled the tribunal lacks jurisdiction to entertain pre-election matter.
Mr. Kaka’an said even if the tribunal has jurisdiction, the petitioners have shown in their submissions that the number of votes returned during the governorship election was lesser than the names contained in the 2011 register which the petitioners accepted as the authentic one.
He therefore, declared that the petitioners have failed to prove that the so called injected names actually voted during the election or that the respondent, Mr. Mimiko, benefited from the alleged injection of names in the register.
Mr. Kaka’an said the petitioners have also failed to prove that their complaints substantially affected the outcome of the election, or to show that they would have won the election or that the first respondent, Mr. Mimiko, would not have won the election.
Governor Olusegun Mimiko said the judgment has actually showed the supremacy of the will of the people in an electoral contest.
He said, “The Labour Party government salutes the professional competence with which the Justice Andovar Kaaka’an Election Tribunal handled the petition within the legal time frame and applauds the decision that squares with the preponderating wish of the electorate during the said election. This has once again, confirmed the Nigerian judiciary as living up to its role as the final impartial arbiter in all contentious matters.”
He enjoined the opposition party members to join hands with the government in the task of developing the state and her people.
“That is why the Labour Party government is calling out to opposition party members to partner with us in meeting the expectations of our people. Since we hold the belief that opposition party politics should be to the constructive engagement of the government in power, we are urging those opposed to our politics to shed the adversarial toga and join hands with us in building an enviable and prosperous Ondo State,” he said.
PDP, ACN kick
However, the PDP candidate, Mr. Oke rejected the judgment which he described as not reflecting the wish of the people of the state who have been craving for a change.
“While awaiting details of the judgment, let me say that the judgment constitutes a brazen defeat of the expectations of the people of Ondo State who had desired light after four years of total darkness.
“It demonstrates a mindset exhibited by the tribunal in the manner it had shut out relevant and material evidence on frivolous excuses during the trial. The judgment remains unacceptable to me and the good people of Ondo state.
“I have accordingly directed our legal team to study the judgment with a view to subjecting it to a review and reversal by the higher court. I have no doubt in my mind that no matter how long darkness may endure, it takes a spark for light to overcome,” Mr. Oke said.
Equally, the ACN Ondo State Chapter described the judgment as shocking.
“The party found it surprising that the tribunal could find accommodation in judicial realm for the much vilified election widely condemned for non-compliance with known norms of free and fair elections,” the party said in a statement.
Mr. Akeredolu has also stated his intention to challenge the result in court.
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