…Orders INEC to make materials available to SDP within 48 Hours
By Friday Idachaba, Lokoja
The Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Lokoja has granted permission to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) to conduct forensic examination of materials used in the November 11, off-cycle election in Kogi State.
To this effect, the Tribunal has ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue certified copies of electoral materials to the SDP within 48 hours.
Chairman of the three-member tribunal, Justice Ado Birnin-Kudu gave the order on Saturday in Lokoja while ruling on two ex-parte motions filed by the SDP and by its governorship candidate, Alhaji Muritala Yakubu Ajaka.
The Tribunal chairman who granted the reliefs sought by the appellants in the ex-parte motion also ordered INEC to allow SDP’s forensic experts to examine some of the electoral materials in the bid to garner evidence to support their case.
The materials include Bimodal Voter Accreditation System and result sheets for Adavi, Okene, Okehi, Ogori-Magongo, Ajaokuta, Lokoja, Kogi and Bassa Local Government Areas.
According to the tribunal the SDP requested the materials to prove its case in the petition challenging the victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Alhaji Ahmed Usman Ododo at the election.
Justice Birnin-Kudu said it was imperative to grant the orders in view of the timeframe provided by the Electoral Act for the Tribunal to discharge its mandate.
“The order is in compliance with Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution (as amended) and with the Electoral Act (2022).
“INEC is hereby ordered to produce all the documents being sought by the plaintiffs within 48 hours to enable proceedings to go smoothly and without hitches,’’ he declared.
Lead counsel to the petitioners, Mr John Adele (SAN), had earlier told the court that efforts made to obtain certified copies of the electoral materials used in the local government areas from INEC were fruitless.
“Time is of essence in this matter, and that is why we filed the motions to your lordship to help salvage the situation.
“Each time we approached INEC since Nov. 13, its officials failed to avail us with even one of the electoral materials for which we requested.
“We believe that if your lordship grants our application, INEC will do the needful to enable us to prosecute this case within the time limit,’’ he prayed the tribunal.
Justice Birnin-Kudu adjourned the case to Wednesday, November 29, for submission of report of compliance by INEC and continuation of hearing.
The SDP and Yakubu-Ajaka are, in the petition before the Tribunal, challenging the return of Alhaji Ahmed Usman Ododo of the APC as winner of the November 11, election.
It would be recalled that INEC declared Ododo, winner of the election with 446,237 votes, while the appellant and his closest rival, Alhaji Muritala Yakubu Ajaka polled 259,052 votes.