By Vivian Okejeme, Abuja
The Kogi State Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, has fixed February 10 for pre-hearing on the petitions filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its governorship candidate, Engineer Musa Wada.
The defendants had dragged the All Progressives Congress (APC), Governor Yahaya Bello and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to the tribunal over the November 16, 2019 governorship election held in the state.
The INEC had November 18, 2019, returned Bello as the duly elected governor of Kogi State.
However, not satisfied with the outcome of the election as declared by INEC, the aggrieved PDP and its candidate on December 14, 2019, approached the tribunal with three volumes of petitions against INEC, Bello and APC as the first, second and third respondents respectively.
The petitioners in a suit No. EPT/KG/GOV/06/2019 are alleging that the election was characterized by irregularities, violence, ballot box snatching and stuffing as well as substantial non-compliance with the 1999 Constitution, electoral laws as well as INEC guideline for governorship elections.
Wada described the election as a charade and insisted that APC with the aid of security agents, rigged the election in its favour and that of its candidate, Bello.
Against this background, the petitioners are asking the tribunal to determine and declare that the second respondent (Bello) was not duly elected and/or returned by a majority of lawful votes cast during the election.
They are also seeking a declaration that neither the second nor the third respondent scored the majority of lawful votes cast at the election to the office of the Governor of Kogi State.
Consequently, they are asking the tribunal to issue an order nullifying the Certificate of Return issued to Bello by INEC and
in addition, issue an order nullifying the entire governorship election conducted in the state by reason of substantial non-compliance with the provisions of the Constitution and extant Electoral Act 2010 (As amended).
Moreover, Wada is seeking an order declaring that he scored the majority of votes cast at the election and that having fulfilled the requirements of section 179(2)(a) and (b) of the Constitution, he is the winner by majority of lawful votes cast and thus returned elected.
Alternatively, the petitioners are praying for an order directing INEC to conduct supplementary election in polling units where elections were cancelled, noting that the margin of lead between the second respondent and the first petitioner being Iess than the registered voters in the cancelled polling units.
The petitioners want a declaration that the election of November 16 and the subsequent declaration and return of the second respondent are voided by corrupt practices in breach of the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010 (As amended), which substantially affected the results of the election
Justice Kashim G. Kaigama, Wednesday, counsel to parties announced different days they filed answers to the pre-hearing information and respectively adopted same answers.
Responding, Justice Kaigama expressed the readiness of the tribunal to begin the hearing and determination of all applications, determination of number of witnesses and the date of hearing of the petition proper.
Counsel to the petitioners, Jibril Okutepa (SAN), told the tribunal that he has filed three motions seeking to strike out certain paragraphs of the second and third respondents reply and also, for the court to grant petitioners leave to inspect election materials.