S/Court says Ajaka has right to inspect Kogi guber poll materials

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By Kenneth Atavti

The Supreme Court has upheld the order of the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja that granted the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the November 2023 election in Kogi permission to inspect election materials.

Nigerian Pilot recalled that on March 7, the apex court stayed the execution of the orders of the Court of Appeal in Abuja, setting aside the inspection order.

The Tribunal had on November 25, 2023, granted an ex parte order, allowing the SDP and its governorship candidate in Kogi for the 2023 election, Murtala Ajaka to carry out a forensic examination of all the Bimodal Voters Accreditation system (BVAS) used in the election, among other reliefs.

But on March 1, 2024, a three-man panel of justices of the Court of Appeal, led by Justice J.O.K. Oyewole, in its ruling, set aside the inspection order.

The panel, which had Justices A. I. Banjoko and A.B. Mohammed as its other members, noted that the scope of the inspection order must stay within the limit allowed under the Electoral Act.

The Court of Appeal noted that though inspection is allowed under the Act, it must be jointly carried out with the respondent.

The Appellate Court had held that the ex parte order made by the Tribunal on November 25, 2023, at the instance of the 1st and 2nd Respondents “are within the jurisdictional competence of the said Tribunal”.

“However, paragraphs ‘G’, ‘K’ and ‘N’ thereof are beyond the scope of Section 146 (1) of the Electoral Act 2022. The said paragraphs ‘G’, ‘K’ and ‘N’ are hereby expunged,” the Court of Appeal ruled.

It added that the inspection purportedly done pursuant to the said Orders of the Tribunal without the presence of the Appellant “violates paragraph ‘H’ of the said orders and it is hereby set aside”.

However, on Thursday, March 7, 2024, the Supreme Court stayed the execution of the orders of the Court of Appeal made on March 1, 2024, regarding the inspection and paragraphs ‘G’, ‘K’ and ‘N’.

Ruling on appeal, SC/CV/132/2023 between Yakubu Murtala & Anor vs Ahmed Usman Ododo & Ors on Thursday, the apex court dismissed the decision of the Court of Appeal and upheld the decision of the trial court.

In a unanimous decision read by Justice Emmanuel Akomoye Agim, the Supreme Court held that the order of the trial court was within the scope of section 146 of the Electoral Act.

“I will read only the conclusion portion. When you get the typed copy, you will see our reasoning,” Justice Agim held, adding, “Our position is that the motion seeking to set aside the Court of Appeal was wrong to have reversed the decision of the trial court that the motion seeking to set aside the decision of the trial Tribunal was incompetent.

“We do not agree with the Court of Appeal. The motion was filed out of time. Secondly, the order of the trial court was within the scope of section 146 of the Electoral Act. In light of the foregoing, this appeal is allowed, and the cross-appeal dismissed with no costs.

“A date was fixed for inspection, and they left the venue. Instead of them coming back, they wrote a letter, and that is a self-inflicted injury so the appeal is allowed and cross-appeal dismissed,” a member of the Ajaka camp said after the ruling on Thursday.

According to him the judgement followed adoption briefs of argument and reply briefs between the parties in the appeal filed.