The Ekiti State Governorship Election Tribunal has upheld the victory of Dr Kayode Fayemi, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the July 14, 2018 governorship election in the state, declaring him as the validly elected governor of the state.
The tribunal, in its judgment in Abuja on Monday, dismissed the petition by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in the election, Prof Kolapo Olusola, challenging the outcome of the election.
Tribunal’s Chairman, Justice Suleiman Belgore, who read the judgment, for about five hours, concluded that the petitioners were unable to discharge the burden of prove placed on them under the law, adding that their claims lacked merits.
Reading the judgement, Justice Belgore said the evidence presented by the petitioners did not meet the required standard and was insufficient to prove their claims that the election was marred by irregularities and did not comply with the Electoral Act.
The tribunal resolved the two issues identified for determination, in favour of the respondents � the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), APC and Dr Fayemi.
On the petitioners’ contention that Fayemi was not qualified to contest the election in view of his alleged indictment by a commission of enquiry set up by the ex-Governor Ayo Faypse’s government to probe allegation of embezzlement of funds during his first tenure, the tribunal said the alleged indictment was not sufficient to disqualify Fayemi.
It noted that Section 182 of the Constitution, which the petitioners based their contention was no longer the law as it has since been deleted by the First Alteration of the Constitution (2010).
The tribunal agreed with Fayemi’s lawyer, Akim Olujinmi (SAN) that even if Section 182 was not deleted, what the petitioners were required to prove to sustain this ground, based on several decided cases, is whether a court of law has found him guilty of embezzlement of funds, which did not happen in this case.
It was also of the view that even if Section 182 (1) of the Constitution was not deleted, the report did not make any finding of embezzlement against the 3rd respondent (Fayemi), the report only said he failed to honour the commission’s invitation, and then recommended that he should be banned from holding public office.
The tribunal noted that although Olusola (who testified as the petitioners’ 31st witness) and their 32nd witness (identified as a legal practitioner) denied knowledge of a court judgment, voiding the said indictment by the commission of enquiry, the tribunal saw a copy of the judgment by Justice Musa Othman of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) which set aside the purported indictment.
On the second question as to whether the election was held in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act, the tribunal held that by the evidence led by the petitioners, it was left with no option than to conclude that the election was held under a peaceful and tranquil environment, devoid of violence and in total compliance with the Electoral Act.
The tribunal said the onus was on the petitioners to effectively prove their allegations of malpractices, violence, deliberate voiding of votes, harassment, thuggery, results manipulation, among others, by calling credible and sufficient evidence.
It noted that after analysing all the evidence led by the petitioners, the tribunal found that they were unable to prove their allegations and claims.
For instance, the tribunal noted that the petitioners failed to call a single witness to prove their claim that 40,000 thumb printed ballot papers were brought into Ekiti a day before the election and that armed security personnel invaded the state during the election, to work for the victory of the APC and its candidate.
The tribunal also noted that while the petitioners alleged malpractices in 1,458 polling units out of the total .2185 polling units in the state, they only called only 71 witnesses, 41 of which were PDP Polling agents for the election..
The tribunal further noted that the statements of some witnesses tendered before the tribunal, were similar, giving the impression that they were mass produced, and therefore lacked the element of individuality as required by law.
It also noted that the petitioners merely dumped most of its documentary evidence, particularly the voters register, on the tribunal without demonstrating their relevance to the case, a development that made the tribunal not to accord them any probative value.
The tribunal said it was strange that, while most of the petitioners’ witnesses (who are all party agents) claimed to have voluntarily signed the results of the election, the petitioners were still contesting the validity of such results.
It said the petitioners failed to show that the 3rd respondent (Fayemi) was not duly elected, and that majority of evidence led, which are all documentary, failed disprove the result as announced and produced by INEC.
The tribunal said: The law is that until the petitioners prove sufficient grounds to ground their various averments of non-compliance, malpractices, corrupt practices, manipulation and irregularities, substantial enough to warrant this tribunal to jettison the election, no duty lies respondents to put up a defence.
Having found that the petitioners failed to do so in this petition, the burden does not shift to the respondents. The petition stands on its own.
In the light of everything said and done, and upon a calm perusal, due consideration of the entire circumstances of this case, it is incorrect to contend that the 3rd respondent did not win the election by a majority of lawful votes. In fact the contrary is crystal clear.
He (Fayemi)scored a total of 197,459 votes against 178,921 scored by the 2nd petitioner (Olusola). We found the declaration and results, as shown in exhibit RA20, in order and duly made.
It satisfies the provision of sections 27 and 69 of the Electoral Act (as amended). We have no reason to upturn or disturb that declaration. This petition is without merit. It fails and its is hereby dismissed. Declared Justice Belgore.
As soon as the judgement was delivered, APC supporters within and outside the court premises started singing and dancing.
Source: Government of Ekiti State, Nigeria