The National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal, sitting in Ibadan, has upheld the election of Senator Sharafadeen Alli of All Progressives Congress (APC), as declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The panel delivered the judgment on Wednesday when it dismissed the petition filed by the candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the district, Chief Joseph Tegbe, who challenged the February 25, 2023 victory of Alli, at the tribunal.
The tribunal dismissed Tegbe’s petition and ordered him to pay the sum of N500,000 each to the three respondents.
This is coming two days after the same panel dismissed the petition of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) and its Oyo South Senatorial Candidate, Funmilola Gbogbolomo against Alli on the grounds that the petition was incompetent.
Alli in the election held in over 2,000 polling units across the nine local government areas that made up Oyo South Senatorial District, scored 111,513 votes against Tegbe’s 92,481 votes.
In the petition, marked: EPT/OY/SEN/04/2023, Tegbe is the first petitioner, while PDP is the second petitioner. However, Alli, APC, and INEC are the first second, and third respondents respectively.
Tegbe had asked the three-man tribunal, led by Justice A. M. Yakubu, to order a rerun of the election, alleging that Alli failed to garner the majority of lawful votes in the election, which constituted non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral laws.
Tegbe called 32 witnesses including himself, to prove his case that the election which produced the winner was fraught with irregularities and failed to comply with the provisions of the Electoral Act.
In the judgment, however, the tribunal held that the signatures of the majority of the witnesses, who introduced themselves as PDP polling agents during the election, did not match on the documents signed at their respective polling units and the ones on their statements on oath.
According to the panel, one of the witnesses, when docked, said he did not make the statement on oath ascribed to him and that the signature on it was not his own.
The panel also stated that the witnesses did not provide means of identification, such as identity cards that could show they worked as PDP polling agents on election day.
It added that the statements on oath for some of the petitioners’ witnesses said they were females, whereas men made appearance before the special court.
Deciding the allegation of over-voting, the tribunal noted that the petitioners failed to rely on voter register to establish over-voting, adding that the voter register is an integral part of proving the allegation, and that the Electoral Act has not abolished voters register.
Every voter, the panel said, must have found his or her name in the voter register and the name would be ticked at each polling unit, before the register would be made to go through Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for accreditation.
The tribunal also said the evidences presented before it by the petitioners were not credible and difficult to believe.
“The petitioners have failed to present cogent, reliable, and compelling evidence, sufficient to affect the results of the poll” as declared by INEC,” the tribunal said.
On the issue of reconfiguration of BVAS raised by the petitioners that the panel should take judicial notice of, the tribunal held that the petitioners failed to prove that reconfiguration of the BVAS for the purpose of conducting governorship and house of assembly polls, did not mean that all the data on the system had been erased.
It stated further that the petitioners should have called INEC to answer questions on reconfiguration of the BVAS.
While delivering the final judgment in the NNPP case, the Tribunal held that the petition was incompetent as the ground upon which it was premised related to a pre-election matter which ought not to be brought before the Tribunal.
The tribunal in the NNPP case held that having regards to the pleadings and evidence before the Court, the petitioners also failed to rebut the presumption of regularity in the conduct of the Election by INEC.