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Tribunal to Rule on Ajaka vs. Ododo Governorship Election Dispute on May 27

The Kogi Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, based in Abuja, has scheduled May 27 to deliver its judgment on the petition filed by Murtala Ajaka, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) governorship candidate, contesting the election victory of Governor Usman Ododo.

This announcement was made on Thursday by Justice Ado Birnin-Kudu, head of the three-member panel, via a message communicated to the parties’ counsel through the tribunal secretary, David Mike.

The governorship election, held on November 11, 2023, saw Ododo of the All Progressive Congress (APC) declared the winner, defeating Ajaka by a significant margin. Unhappy with the election outcome, Ajaka filed a petition challenging Ododo’s victory.

The tribunal began hearing the case in December 2023, culminating on May 13 when all parties – the SDP, Ajaka, APC, Ododo, and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) – presented their final arguments and adopted their written addresses. The tribunal then reserved its judgment.

INEC, Ododo, and the APC have requested the tribunal to dismiss Ajaka and the SDP’s petition, labeling it incompetent and meritless. Representing them were Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN (for INEC), Joseph Daudu, SAN (for Ododo), and Emmanuel Ukala, SAN (for the APC).

Agabi, representing INEC, argued that the petition lacked merit and was incompetent, urging the tribunal to dismiss it. He referenced recent judgments from the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, asserting that inconsistent grounds in a petition, when not aligned with the reliefs sought, should lead to its dismissal. Agabi cited a Supreme Court decision in Tonye Cole’s case against INEC to support his argument.

Daudu, representing Ododo, argued that the petition should be dismissed for being statute-barred, alleging it was filed out of time. He also dismissed the allegations of forgery against his client, claiming it was a pre-election matter, referencing the apex court’s decision in Gbagi’s case against INEC. Furthermore, Daudu contended that Section 137 of the Electoral Act, concerning over-voting allegations, did not apply to this petition.

Ukala, representing the APC, echoed Daudu’s arguments, urging the tribunal to dismiss the petition for lack of merit.

On the other hand, Ajaka’s lawyer, Pius Akubo, SAN, insisted that their petition was filed within the legal timeframe, countering Daudu’s claim. He argued that even the respondents’ witness confirmed the petition was filed on December 2, 2023, thus meeting the legal deadline. Akubo urged the tribunal to disregard the respondents’ submissions and uphold the petition.

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