From Chris Gaga, Makurd
The governorship Elections Petitions Tribunal sitting in Makurdi, the Benue state capital has upheld the victory of the governor, Samuel Ortom as winner of the March 23 governorship elections.
In a substantive judgement delivered in a petition filed by Emmanuel Jime, candidate of the All Progressives (APC) on Monday, Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Henry Olusiyi dismissed the petition for lacking in merit.
Jime of the APC had challenged INEC for returning Samuel Ortom(2nd respondent) of PDP as winner of the 2019 governorship election on grounds that he was not duly elected by number of lawful votes.
The petitioner Prayed the Tribunal to void the return of Ortom and declare him as winner.
All the respondents (INEC, Ortom, PDP) had denied the allegations. But Ortom, who called a lone witness, INEC and PDP rested their defence on the petitioners.
On their part, the petitioners called 59 witnesses, with the first petitioner, Emmanuel Jime, testifying as Petitioners’ Witness (PW) 15.
Justice Olusiyi said the petitioner failed to prove that he was the winner of the elections having called only 59 witnesses out of hundreds of witnesses.
He also ruled that most of the witnesses of the petitioner were based on hearsay and not concrete evidence.
The trial Judge ruled that Card Reader was not an authentic means of determining election victory hence it was not recognized by the electoral Law. He, therefore, affirmed the victory of Ortom as the winner of the March 23 governorship elections.
The tribunal had earlier before delivering the substantive motion, ruled on seven applications that were reserved for ruling on judgement day with Ortom winning four of the motions while Jime of APC won three.
Honourable Justice AA Ajeigbe (member I), and Hon Justice GF Ette (member II) read the seven motions.
Reacting to the judgement, the Benue State Deputy Governor, Benson Abounu described the ruling of the Tribunal as a confirmation of the will of Benue people.
“I think it is a very thorough judgement and it is a judgement that is well deserved. This victory came to us and was given to us freely by Benue People. We won with approximately 90 thousand vote difference and today the tribunal has vindicated us that victory was given to us by Benue people and by God,” he told DAILY ASSET.
The deputy governorship candidate of the APC, Sam Ode said they expected victory but since they couldn’t get it, they will appeal the judgement.
“We approached this tribunal believing that we will get justice, but thank God the Judge has told us that there are other layers and we are going to test the efficacy of this judgment at the appeal court.
“We employ all our supporters, the teeming people of Benue who voted massively for us to remain peaceful and to remain law abiding,” Ode said.
Meanwhile, Counsel to governor Samuel Ortom, Sabastine Hon, SAN applauded the judgement and said they will cross appeal if the petitioners dared to appeal.
“We believe it is a very sound judgement. The tribunal analyzed everything. The petitioner complained in hundreds of polling units but they called only 31 polling agents. The law is settled that each polling unit you must call an agent to testify. And of the 31 polling agents, some of them denied their statement, some could not sign their witness statement on oath and a host of other inhibitions.
You heard the rulings about the card reader. They so much dwell on card reader which is not in electoral Law and jurisprudence in Nigeria. The tribunal judgement is sound.
“If they dare appeal, we have what is called cross appeal or respondents notice because some of our points were dismissed, we somehow feel aggrieved, so if they dare Appeal, we will file respondent notice or cross appeal,” Hon stated.