By Edith Nwapi
Abuja – The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on Thursday reserved judgment in an appeal challenging the re- election of Samuel Ortom’ s as Benue governor.
Emmanuel Jime of the All Progressives Congress (APC) had challenged the return of Mr Ortom of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the grounds of substantial noncompliance with the provisions of Electoral Act, 2010 as amended.
Also joined in the petition were the PDP and INEC.
The five- man panel of the appellate court presided over by Justice A.A Begore after listening to the brief of arguments by the counsel in the matter reserved judgment to a date that would be communicated to parties.
Mr Yusuf Ali, SAN, counsel for the appellants in his brief of argument urged the panel to find merit in the appeal and set aside the judgment of the lower tribunal.
All the counsel for the respondents, Mr Offiong Offiong , SAN for INEC, Mr Sabestine Hon, SAN for Ortom and Mr Chris Uche, SAN for PDP in their various brief of argument urged the panel to dismiss the appeal with substantial cost. The petitioners alleged in their petition that Ortom was not dully elected by majority of lawful votes cast and there were issues of over voting.
The APC governorship candidate also challenged the results declared in Buruku, Gboko, Guma, Gwer East, Gwer West, Konshisha, Kwande, Logo, Ukum, Ushongo and Vandeikya.
He therefore asked the tribunal to either declare him winner of the March 2019 governorship election in Benue or nullify Ortom’s election and order the conduct of a fresh election in the state.
NAN reports that at Benue Election Petition Tribunal, the petitioners called 59 witnesses who testified that they witnessed irregularities, over voting and other electoral malpractices perpetrated by the PDP and INEC during the election.
The respondents stated that the election was conducted in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act 2010 as amended, adding that non-substantial compliance did not affect the result of the election.
During the hearing of the petition Ortom called only one witness while the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC did not call any witness.
The Governorship election sitting in Makurdi on Oct. 7 dismissed the petition of Jime.
The Tribunal presided over by Justice Henry Olusiyi, in its judgment held that the Petitioner’s witness statements were contradictory, unreliable and not credible.
The panel added that their statements were incompetent and their inability to identify documents and link them to the case which amounts to dumping the materials on the tribunal.
Olusiyi also held that the petitioners failed to prove the allegation of over voting, noting voters’ register and not the smart card reader remains the valid method to ascertain the number of registered voters in an elegant.
“Card reader can only be alternative and admissible if the National Assembly amends the Electoral Act to provide for it” the panel held.
He added that witnesses failed to prove allegation of over voting to warrant the cancellation of votes in polling units.