Appeal Court upholds nullification of Melaye’s election

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*Melaye, Adeyemi

The representative of Kogi West in the senate, Mr. Dino Melaye today lost his appeal of a tribunal ruling that voided his February 23 election as senator.

A three-man panel of the Court of Appeal led by Justice Abubakar Datti Yahaya upheld the verdict of the Kogi State National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal which, on August 23, voided Melaye’s election as the representative of Kogi West senatorial district.

The court ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a fresh poll within 90 days.

Melaye who disclosed this in a tweet said: “I just lost my election at the Appeal Court and Fresh election ordered.

“In all things, I give God Praise. He who started a good thing will definitely complete it. I ask my supporters to be law-abiding as we shall always overcome. To God be the Glory.”

Melaye, candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was declared winner in the election.

He defeated Mr. Smart Adeyemi of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who filed a case at the tribunal alleging that there were irregularities, over voting and non-compliance with the electoral act during the exercise.

The Appeal Court had on September 24 reserved judgment in the three separate appeals filed by Melaye.

The three appeals were filed by the PDP and Melaye, praying the appellate court to set aside the majority decision of the tribunal which voided the election of Melaye.

The PDP, represented by Mr. Jubrin Okutepa, in his final argument had prayed the Justice Yahaya-led panel to set aside the majority decision of the tribunal against Melaye on the ground of denial of fair hearing and refusal to evaluate the evidence adduced during the hearing.

The party claimed that the tribunal failed to evaluate the testimonies of its witnesses while no reference was made to all the documentary evidence it supplied before the tribunal came to a wrong conclusion of over-voting, even when the petitioner did not tender voter register.

The PDP further claimed that the tribunal turned the head of natural justice upside down when it based over voting used in cancelling the senatorial election on the number of collected permanent voter cards rather than voter register as required by law.

The PDP then urged the three-man panel justices to invoke section 16 of the Court of Appeal Act and dismiss the petition for lacking in merit.

In the second appeal filed by INEC, through its lawyer, Kola Olowookere, the Appeal Court was urged to dismiss the allegation of mutilation of the election result and favouring a particular candidate as alleged by the petitioner, Smart Adeyemi and the APC.

The electoral body argued that the claim of over-voting by the tribunal was wrong and baseless because the voter register and result of the election in 2015 tallied with the result in the disputed area.

INEC alleged that the tribunal did not evaluate the exhibits it tendered to prove that there was no over-voting and pleaded that appeal be allowed.

The third appeal filed by Melaye and argued by Onyechi Ikpeazu urged the Appeal Court to set aside the over voting decision of the tribunal because it was based on hearsay instead of polling units’ agents’ results

The counsel called the attention of the Justices to the fact that only three witnesses were called, adding that the evidence of the three witnesses based on hearsay cannot justify the cancellation of the senatorial election.

Melaye’s counsel further submitted that mutilation of result sheet was untenable because the final result of the senatorial election was endorsed by agents of the candidates and the parties and that the petitioners failed to establish that the alleged mutilated result substantially affected the final result collation.

However, the and its candidate opposed the arguments of the appellants and pleaded with the appellate court to dismiss the three appeals because appellants were not denied fair hearing and that the tribunal based its findings on over voting on the report of INEC which comprehensively contained the number of collected voter cards unit by unit.

Adeyemi, a former senator and APC through their counsel, Adekunle Otitoju, argued that INEC breached an order of the federal high court to the effect that the senatorial election result must be collated and announced in Kabba, the senatorial district headquarters and not in Lokoja as done by the electoral body.

They alleged that while their agents were in Kabba waiting for the collation, the INEC officials and agents of the appellants allegedly colluded and secretly moved the result collation to Lokoja where the result sheets were allegedly mutilated to favour Melaye.

They also insisted that mutilation of results, dated February 25 instead of February 23, was so apparent and that over-voting was so established to the tune of over 48,000 votes.

Additional report from Premium Times

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