-….Oshiomhole leads road show …PDP to appeal judgment
EBOJELE AKHERE PATRICK, Benin
The Edo State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Benin on Friday upheld the election of Governor Godwin Obaseki, declaring that the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, to be declared winner of the election lacked merit.The PDP and Ize-Iyamu had challenged the declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of Godwin Obaseki of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as winner of the September 28, 2016, governorship election in the state and listed INEC, Obaseki and APC as first second and third respondents respectively.
Chairman of the three-man tribunal, Justice Ahmed Badamasi, who spent two hours to read out the judgement, noted that “the petitioner can only succeed on the strength of his case and not on the absence or weakness of the defence.”
He said the evidence led by the petitioners did not establish that there was substantial non compliance with the provision of the Electoral Act in the 2,627 polling units they contested as the petitioners did not call on witnesses in majority of the polling units in the state.
He pointed out that the petitioners in a bid to prove their case, called on witnesses who could not give evidence and that the petitioners did not call on any witness to prove a case of misapplication of votes.
He stated that the PDP and Ize-Iyamu could not put forward substantial reasons for the latter to be declared winner of the election or make the tribunal nullify the result of the election.
While the tribunal declared that accreditation constituted the foundation for a credible election, the tribunal assereted that allegation of poor or uncompleted accreditation by the petitioners could not be established.
Justice Badamasi said the reliance of the petitioners on the ticking of the name of a prospective voter on the left side of the voters’ register to mark complete accreditation was only an administrative guideline for election officials.
Justice Badamasi said, “On the whole, we hold that the petitioners have not by credible evidence proved their case and they have failed to show that they are entitled to their reliefs.
“Accordingly, the petition is, therefore, dismissed. The election of the second respondent, Godwin Obaseki, is hereby upheld.”
Earlier in the first issue that was determined, the tribunal threw out the argument of the 2nd respondent that the Osagie Ize-Iyamu, whose name was recorded as the candidate of the PDP in the INEC register, was not the same person as Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu Andrew, whose name was listed as first petitioner in the case.
The tribunal gave that there was nothing to prove that there was a case of clash of identity in the 2nd respondent’s argument and that the first petitioner was able to prove that “pastor” was his appellation and that “Andrew” was his baptismal name.
In his comment, Governor Godwin Obaseki, who was present in the court along with his deputy, Comrade Philip Shaibu, appealed to the judges through his counsel, Kehinde Eleja (SAN), not to award any cost against the petitioners, saying he was a governor for all Edo people.
He in his reaction to the tribunal judgement, the Governor said, “I want to thank the people of Edo state for standing by the APC and my government. We thank God, we thank the judges from an amazing job they have done. We want all of you to go back home peacefully and enjoy the Easter holiday.”
The governor was later joined by leaders and supporters of the APC in a victory dance around some parts of the Benin metropolis.
Reacting, the candidate of the PDP, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu has described as porous the judgment of the tribunal, assuring his supporters that the matter will be pursued as far as the Supreme Court.
Addressing PDP elders, leaders and supporters at his campaign office in Benin shortly after the judgement, he gave the assurance that the judgment cannot stand.
He said, “From the snippets I heard of the tribunal judgement, it cannot stand in the higher courts. This case must be pursued up to the Supreme Court”.
Addressing his supporters, he said, “Don’t be dismayed. We are still hoping for your support. I urge you all to be calm and refrain from being provoked into violence.
Also speaking, the chairman of the Edo State chapter of the PDP, Dan Orbih, corroborated Ize-Iyamu, saying Friday’s judgment will be appealed.
He said, “Definitely we are going to appeal against the judgement. We reject the judgement of the ttibunal; it is not acceptable to us.
“We have told our lawyers to appeal the judgement. The issues we raised in the petition were not addressed by the tribunal.
“I appeal to Edo people to remain calm but be resolute in our bid to reclaim the mandate given to Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.”
Meanwhile, former Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, who was present in court, has described the petition filed by the PDP and Ize-Iyamu as an abuse of the court process.
Oshiomhole advised that the Electoral Act should be amended such that if a parties bring a frivolous case such as that of the PDP and Ize-Iyamu, sufficient cost should be awarded against them to serve as deterrence to others.
He said, “I knew our people will never vote for the PDP and the didn’t vote for the PDP. They thought they could do smuggling through the court.
The judiciary has shown that they have men and women of impeccable character and I’m happy about that.”
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