Court announces date for ruling on Kogi gubernatorial election

The Abuja-based Kogi Governorate Electoral Petition Tribunal has set May 27 to rule on the petition filed by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and its governorship candidate, Murtala Ajaka, against the electoral victory of the Governor Usman Ododo.
The three-member panel of judges, headed by Justice Ado Birnin-Kudu, announced the date on Thursday in Abuja in a message communicated to the parties’ lawyers through its secretary, David Mike, and made available to journalists .

Kogi, on November 11, 2023, held its off-cycle elections in which Ododo of the All Progressive Congress (APC) emerged winner beating his closest rival, Ajaka of the SDP by a wide margin.

Ajaka, dissatisfied with the outcome of the election, filed a petition with the court challenging Ododo’s victory.

The case, which began in December 2023, reached its peak on May 13 when the SDP, Mr Ajaka, the APC, Mr Ododo and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) adopted their final speeches by written, after which the court reserved its decision on the petition.

NAN reports that INEC, Mr Ododo and his party, APC, had asked the court to dismiss Mr Ajaka and the SDP’s petition in its entirety as incompetent and lacking in merit.

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INEC, Mr. Ododo and the APC through their lawyers; Kanu Agabi, Joseph Daudu and Emmanuel Ukala respectively told the court as they adopted their final written speeches and presented their arguments against the petition.

Mr Ajaka’s lawyer, Pius Akubo, however, urged the court to disapprove the respondents’ submissions and grant their petition.

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In his argument, INEC counsel Mr Agabi told the panel that the petition was baseless and incompetent, and urged the court to strike out or dismiss it.

“Our humble proposal is that your work in determining this petition be simplified in recent rulings of the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court,” he said.

He held that the Court of Appeal had decided that if the grounds for a petition are inconsistent with each other and are not consistent with reparations, it must be struck out.

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He also argued that the petitioners’ evidence was manifestly insufficient, citing a Supreme Court decision in a case of Tonye Cole v INEC.

Calling the case frivolous, the lead attorney pleaded with the court to dismiss or dismiss the petition for lack of jurisdiction.

Ododo, through his lawyer, Daudu, also urged the court to dismiss the petition in its entirety.

He argued that the petition was time-barred (filed after the deadline).

He also urged the court to dismiss the forgery allegations against his client, saying they bordered on a pre-election matter, which the high court had decided in Gbagi’s case against INEC.

Mr. Daudu also argued that Section 137 of the Electoral Act cited by the petitioners on allegations of over-voting did not apply in the present petition.

Also supporting Mr Daudu’s submission, Mr Ukala, who represented APC, urged the court to dismiss the petition for lack of merit.

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The petitioners’ counsel, Mr Akubo, disagreed with Daudu that their petition was filed out of time.

He maintained that the respondents themselves confirmed that the petition was filed on December 2, 2023, including by their witness.

“I urge your honor to consider that we filed this petition within the time frame provided by our law,” he said.


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