THE Kogi State National Assembly/State Assembly Election Tribunal on Friday voided the election of Dino Melaye as the Senator representing the Kogi West Senatorial District.
The three-man tribunal was unanimous that the election that produced Melaye of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as a Senator was flawed.
The tribunal, led by Justice A.O. Chijioke, upheld the petition by Senator Smart Adeyemi of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and ordered that a fresh election be conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Adeyemi’s lawyer, Dapo Otitoju, had, while making his final submission on July 23, 2019, prayed the court to nullify the election on three grounds.
The first ground, the lawyer argued, was that INEC’s decision to collate and announce the election’s results in Lokoja, despite a judgment of the Federal High Court identifying Kabba as the headquarters of the senatorial district, was a negation of the Constitution and Electoral Acts, which constitutes a substantial ground to nullify the election.
The lawyer argued that INEC’s failure to abide by the judgment of the Federal High Court, which it did not appeal, showed it had a hidden agenda.
Second, Otitoju argued that the presentation of the certified true copy of PVC distribution in Kogi West which revealed 48,200 excess votes in the result declared for the senatorial district was enough reason for the tribunal to nullify the election.
He urged the tribunal to take note of the mutilation of votes that was visible in the result sheet and argued that the mutilation was occasioned by INEC’s change of venue of collation centres.
The lawyer prayed the tribunal to void the election on the grounds that it was held in substantial non-compliance with the Constitution, the Electoral Act and against the wishes of the people who voted.
Lawyer to Melaye, Professor Joash Amupitan (SAN), who made a counter-argument, prayed the tribunal to dismiss the petitioner and argued that the documents presented by the petitioners were “mere hearsay documents.”
He urged the court to hold that his client was validly elected.
By the judgment yesterday, Melaye is allowed, under the Electoral Act, 14 days within which to appeal the decision.
The Court of Appeal, which is the final court in national and state legislative election cases, has 60 days from the day of judgment, to determine the appeal.
In a statement he issued in reaction to the judgment, Melaye described the tribunal’s decision as a total miscarriage of justice.
He said: “The judgment is full of importation of information that is alien to the case.
“I however commend the courage and moral strength of the chairman of the tribunal for resisting evil and standing on the path of justice.
“I have confidence in the Appeal Court to right the wrongs contained in the pronouncements of the judgment.
“I also want to tell those jubilating that their jubilation will be short-lived, while appealing to my teeming supporters to remain calm as their mandate is safe and secure and cannot be taken through any mischievous means.
“Our legal team is already working on appealing the judgment and I assure all that justice will prevail.”