Monday, May 20, 2024

INEC closes defence in SDP, Ajaka’s petition against Gov Ododo

SDP and its governorship candidate in the poll are challenging the declaration of Mr Ododo of APC as the winner of the poll.

• April 16, 2024
Murtala Yakubu-Ajaka and Usman Ododo
Murtala Yakubu-Ajaka and Usman Ododo

The Independent National Electoral Commission closed its defence on Tuesday in the petition filed by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and its candidate, Murtala Ajaka, against Usman Ododo’s election as governor of Kogi.

INEC’s counsel, Uchenna Njoku, disclosed this to the Kogi governorship election petition tribunal in Abuja shortly after he tendered more documents against the SDP’s petition.

Mr Njoku told the three-member panel of justices, led by Justice Ado Birnin-Kudo that INEC did not intend to call any witnesses after assessing the petitioners’ case.

“My lords, the first respondent, having reviewed the state of pleadings in this petition, the evidence elicited from petitioners’ witnesses under cross-examination, and the documents so far tendered in evidence by the 1st respondent, considers it reasonable not to further belabour the tribunal with the calling of witnesses.

“In the circumstances, the first respondent (INEC) applies to close its case,” the lawyer said.

Mr Birnin-Kudo, who declared INEC’s case closed, adjourned until April 16 for Mr Ododo (second respondent) to open its defence.

INEC conducted the Kogi governorship election on November 11, 2023.

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

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

Earlier in Tuesday’s proceedings, Njoku told the tribunal that INEC brought the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) devices used for the election, as ordered by the court on November 25, 2023.

Mr Njoku also tendered three sets of documents, including a letter dated February 22 forwarding the BVAS, a document containing a summary of the BVAS devices, and another document containing the BVAS’ identification numbers.

When Mr Njoku applied to tender the documents, Ibrahim Sanni Mohammed, who appeared for Mr Ododo and Ayo Asala, who appeared for the APC, did not object to the admissibility of the exhibits.

Pius Akubo, a lawyer for SDP and Mr Ajaka, objected on the grounds that only documents were tendered without the actual exhibits.

Ruling, the tribunal’s chairman admitted the documents as exhibits and marked them accordingly.

The BVAS tendered were in relation to seven LGAs, including Okehi, Ajaoukuta, Basa, Ogori-Magongo, Lokoja, Adavi and Okene.

Meanwhile, Mr Ododo has indicated his readiness to open his defence on Wednesday. His lawyer, Mr Mohammed, disclosed this when the tribunal’s chairman asked when the second respondent would open his defence.

Mr Mohammed assured the tribunal that his client was ready to commence his defence on Wednesday.

On Monday, INEC tendered some electoral documents used in the poll to defend its case.


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