Tribunal affirms Ododo as Kogi governor, dismisses forgery allegations

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The Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, on Monday affirmed Usman Ahmed Ododo as the lawfully elected governor of Kogi State.

The tribunal dismissed the petition filed by the Social Democratic Party, SDP and its governorship candidate, Murtala Ajaka.

The judgment was passed by the three-member panel of the tribunal, led by Justice Ado Birnin-Kudu.

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had declared the candidate of the All Progressive Congress, APC, Usman Ododo, as the winner of the election conducted on November 11, 2023.

The State Returning Officer, Prof Johnson Urama, who is the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Academics, of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka announced Ododo as the winner on Sunday, November 12, 2023.

He announced that Ododo polled 446,237 votes, to beat his closest rival, Murtala Ajaka of the SDP who scored 259,052, while Dino Melaye of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) polled 46,362 votes.

However, the petitioners approached the tribunal and sought to overturn the election results on various grounds ranging from alleged over-voting and forgery of personal documents submitted to INEC to secure clearance to participate in the election.

They applied for an order directing INEC to conduct a fresh election in five local government areas.

Ajaka’s legal team led by Jibrin Okutepa, SAN had predicted the petition on the grounds of alleged forgery, overvoting and non-compliance with the Electoral Act.

The petitioners alleged that over-voting occurred in 5 local government areas of Kogi State including Adavi, Okene and Okehi among others.

But the APC legal team led by Emmanuel Ukala challenged the competence of the witnesses presented by the petitioners.

Counsel for INEC, Kanu Agabi (SAN) on his own maintained that the witnesses presented by the petitioner were incompetent because “they are not the makers” of the electoral documents they submitted as exhibits.

The respondents maintained that the exhibits touching on forgery and overvoting are “mere photocopies” that cannot be relied upon by any court.

However, in the judgment, Justice Ado Birnin-Kudu held that from the decisions of the Supreme Court on the 2023 presidential and governorship elections, statements of witnesses must be filed along with a petition and not during the hearing of a petition.

“The petitioners have failed to file their witness statements (PW1) on oath along with the petition, within the given time,” the Chairman said while expunging the exhibits tendered by the petitioners.

He added that “the piece of oral evidence made by the petitioner’s witnesses are hearsay evidence” as they are not the makers of the exhibits tendered before the tribunal.

The tribunal, while dismissing the petition, affirmed the election of Ododo.

Ododo took over from former Governor Yahaya Bello after serving as Auditor-General for Local Governments in Kogi State.

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