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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Governorship: Benue Election Petition Tribunal begins pre-hearing

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The Benue State State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Lafia, has begun pre-hearing of the petition by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and Rt. Hon Titus Uba, challenging the declaration of Hyacinth Alia of the All Progressives Congress, APC, as winner of the March 18, 2023 governorship poll held in Benue State.

When the tribunal commenced sitting on Tuesday, Douglas Pepe, SAN, who appeared for the petitioners, Titus Uba and PDP adopted the petitioners answers to pre-hearing questions.

He also informed the three-member panel that led by Justice E. O Ajayi, that the petitioners have also responded to the six applications filed by the respondents and have also proposed issues for determination.

Counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Mr Ishaku Dikko, SAN, counsel to Hyacinth Alia, S.I Ameh, SAN, that of Sam Odeh, Mike Mamman Osuman, SAN, and Mathew Burkaa, SAN, who appeared for the APC all adopted their answers to pre-hearing questions earlier filed before the tribunal.

Osuman, SAN, further informed the court that the respondents have responded to two out of the three applications he filed.

Osuman, SAN, further drew the attention of the court to his application challenging the territorial jurisdiction of the panel which is sitting in Lafia.

According to the Osuman, SAN, he was challenging the territorial jurisdiction of the tribunal because based on the provisions of the constitution, the panel ought to sit in Makurdi, Benue State, and not Lafia in Nassarawa State.

Osuman, SAN, further said that the issue of territorial jurisdiction is a threshold issue that must be resolved before the tribunal can commence pre-hearing.

He asked the court for an adjournment to enable him respond to the counter affidavits of the petitioners and also move his application challenging the territorial jurisdiction of the tribunal.

The Chairman of the panel, E.O Ajayi adjourned the matter to June 8th, 2023, for continuation of Pre-hearing.

Speaking to newsmen after the inaugural sitting, the deputy governorship candidate of the PDP in the 2023 governorship election in Benue State, Sir John Ngbede, said the party was ready for the matter to be heard anywhere.

He wondered why the respondendts were worried over the venue, even when the panel was sitting in an APC-controlled State.

Sir Ngbede urged PDP members to be calm and law-abiding while the litigation is on.

In Petition No: EPT/BN/Gov/01/2023, Titus Uba and the PDP are the first and second petitioners respectively, while INEC is the first respondent, Alia is second, Sam Odeh is third and APC is the fourth respondent.

In the petition, Uba and the PDP allege that the deputy governor of Benue State, Sam Odeh presented a forged
certificate to INEC.

The petitioners allege that Odeh
obtained Form EC9(Affidavit in support of Personal Particulars) of from INEC, filled, signed and presented/submitted the Form to INEC, falsely certifying that the said Form EC9 was sworn to before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

Uba and PDP aver that through their counsel vide a letter dated 27th December, 2022 to the Chief Registrar, High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja sought to
verify the authenticity of the said Form EC9.

According to the petitioners, in response to the said letter of 27th December,2022, the office of the Chief Registrar in a letter dated 9th January, 2023 stated that, “There is no Revenue Receipt Number on the said document, there is no Court Seal on the said document and the name of the Commissioner for Oath did not appear on the said document.
Therefore, the said document was never sworn to before ths Court.”

The petitioners state that the APC was bound to submit to INEC, not later than 180 days to the date of election, the names of the Alia and Odeh as candidates the party proposed to
sponsor at the election who must have emerged from a valid primary conducted by the APC.

Rt. Hon Uba and the PDP aver that Alia and Odeh were not sponsored by the APC within the period prescribed by law(that is, not later than 180 days to the governorship election in Benue
State).

They further aver that as at February 3rd, 2023, when Alia and Odeh were purportedly sponsored,it was just 44 days to the date of governorship election in Benue State and it had become too late, and the prescribed period
for claims, objections and actions by members of the relevant constituency had elapsed.

Uba and PDP are seeking the following reliefs:

(a) A declaration that 1st respondent violated the extant provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022 when it received from the APC and
published the names of the Alia and Odeh as Governorship and Deputy Governorship candidates in the Benue State Governorship
Election, held on the 18th March, 2023 contrary to Sections 29(1) and 32(1) of the Electoral Act, 2022.

(b) A declaration that the 2nd respondent, Alia Hyacinth Iormem who purportedly obtained the highest votes cast at the Governorship
Election in Benue State held on the 18th March, 2023 was, at the time of the election, not qualified to contest the election.

(c) A declaration that the 3rd Respondent, Samuel Ode who purportedly ran a joint ticket as the deputy governorship candidate
with the 2nd respondent at the governorship election in Benue State held
on the 18th March, 2023 was, at the time of the
not qualified to contest the election.

(d) An Order nullifying the election and return of the 2nd and 3rd respondents as governor and deputy governor of Benue State.

(e) A declaration that all the Four Hundred and Seventy-ThreeThousand, Nine Hundred & Thirty-Three (473,933) votes
credited to the 2nd Respondent, Alia Hyacinth Iormem, who was declared the winner of the Benue State Governorship election held on the 18th day of March, 2023 and returned as elected,amount to wasted votes.

(c) A declaration that the 2nd Respondent did not score the majority of the valid votes cast at the Governorship election in Benue State.

(g) A declaration that the 1st petitioner, Uba Tyoapine Titus, who obtained the second highest number of valid votes cast at
The Governorship Election in Benue State held on the 18th March,2023 and satisfied the requirements of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and the Electoral Act,2022 ought to be declared.

(h) An Order of the Tribunal directing the 1st respondent to withdraw and/or nullify the Certificate of Return issued by the 1st respondent to the 2nd respondent as the winner of the governorship election in Benue State held on the 18th day of March, 2023.

(i) An Order of the tribunal declaring the 1st Petitioner, Uba Tyoapine Titus as the winnerof the Governorship Election in Benue State held on the 18th day of March,2023.

(j) Am Order returning the 1st petitioner, Uba Tyoapine Titus as the winner of the governorship election in Benue State held on the 18th day of March,2023, as duly elected and returned as Governor of Benue State.

(k) An Order of the Tribunal directing the 1st respondent to issue Certificate of Return to the 1st petitioner as the winner of the
governorship election in Benue. State held on the 18th day of March, 2023, amongst other reliefs.

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