Saturday 30 September 2023

Ogun Tribunal Upholds Governor Abiodun’s Election

After a judgement which lasted for more than eleven hours, the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abeokuta, Ogun State, on Saturday, upheld election of Governor Dapo Abiodun, as the winner of March 18 election.

Justice Hamidu Kunaza-led tribunal in a unanimous decision dismissed the petition filed against Abiodun by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its governorship candidate, Ladi Adebutu.

The panel held that Adebutu’s petition was “incompetent, defective and lacking in merits.”

INEC had declared Abiodun winner after polling 276,298 votes, while Adebutu scored 262,38 and Biyi Otegbeye of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) came distant third with 94,754 votes.

But, PDP and Adebutu dragged Abiodun and APC before the Tribunal, alleging that the governor did not win the majority of votes cast during the March 18 governorship election.

PDP and Adebutu in the petition marked, EPT/OG/GOV/03/2023 accused the INECof non-compliance to the Electoral Act and corrupt practices during the election.

The petitioners also alleged that elections were disrupted by thugs in over 99 polling units, disenfranchising over 40,000 voters from participating in the election.

Adebutu sought an order of the court to declare him as the winner of the election.

He also prayed the court to order the INEC to conduct fresh election in 99 polling units in 41 wards which cut across 16 Local government areas of the State where elections were either not held and/or cancelled due to disruption and over-voting.

But the judges held that the petitioners failed to prove allegations of non-compliance, overvoting, disenfranchment of voters, non-qualification of second respondent (Abiodun) and corrupt practices during the polls, beyond reasonable doubt.

Justice Kunaza while reading the lead judgement held that the forensic experts have nothing to prove that they are qualified experts, adding that their reports cannot be relied on.

The panel also held that the there was no direct evidence that voters were disenfranchised during the election.

The tribunal maintained that the disenfranchised voters must testify that they were ready to vote; if they were allowed to vote their candidate would have won; and that they had their voters’ cards and were registered voters.

On the alleged non qualification of Abiodun due criminal records, Kunaza declared that the petitioners have failed to show that the second respondent (Abiodun) had been tried, arraigned and convicted in the US.

“On the whole, the petitioners have not successfully proven the allegation of non compliance with the electoral act and have not discharged the burden of prove,” he said.

In dismissing the petition, Kunaza “I uphold the election of Dapo Abiodun as the dully elected governor of Ogun State in the March 18 election.”

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