The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Governor Godwin Obaseki and the All Progressives Congress (APC) on Monday urged the Edo State Election Petition Tribunal to dismiss the petition against the conduct of September 28th 2016 gubernatorial election filed by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and her candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
The parties involved in the case, PDP (1st petitioner), Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, (2nd respondent), (INEC) 1st respondent, Godwin Obaseki (2nd respondent), and APC (3rd respondent), appeared before the tribunal to adopt their addresses for the final determination of the petition by the three-man panel led by Justice Ahmed Badamasi.
Taking the lead was the 1st respondent’s counsel, Mr. Onyebuchi Ikpeazu, who commenced by respectfully urging the Court to dismiss the petition
He said, “All the parties agree that the burden is on the petitioner to prove the case that they have set out in their petition.
“But the case they have set out to prove in their pleadings rests on allegations with respect to what transpired at the respective polling units.
“Whether the point is some imperfections in form EC8A, or swapping of votes or accreditation or improper accreditation, are all matters which transpired at the polling units.
“However, they have pleaded that there are 2,627 polling units. From their pleadings, they have challenged 2,423 polling units.
“If you look at their evidence, particularly areas they have abandoned, it appears they have reduced that to about 1,200”, he said.
He continued that the petitioners called 27 polling unit agents to witness, adding 2 agents, who doubled as collation agents (increasing the number to 29), to give evidence on what transpired at the respective polling units.
Citing the cases of Uche vs Elechi and Gundiri vs Ako, Ikpeazu (SAN) noted that the law was clear that proof must be polling unit by unit with the effect that if the court nullifies the votes in 29 or 27 polling units as the case may be, there would be no effect whatsoever on the result of the election.
Meanwhile, quoting sections 138(a) and 139 of the Electoral Act, he urged the judges to dismiss this petition, explaining that the petitioners spent time to give evidence on the voters’ register and as to the mode of ticking.
“The foundation in any election petition must be the Electoral Act and accreditation merged with the concept of over-voting is completely defined by the Electoral Act.
“By virtue of section 54, if the number of voters exceed the number of accredited registered voters then the issue of over-voting would have been established.
He further argued, quoting section 128, that if INEC laid down instructions to guide its officers in the election process, and they did not conform to that instruction, but that such non-conformity did not breach any provision of the electoral act, then it would be of no consequence.
Approaching the argument from another angle, he, again, cited the cases of Buhari and Obasanjo among others, urging the judges to declare the case ‘completely immaterial’ and not to give any credence to it.
John Mayaki is the Chief Press Secretary (Interim), Governor’s Office, Government House Benin City, Edo State