Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been declared the rightful winner of the February 25 senatorial election for Kogi Central. This decision came on Wednesday from the Election Petition Tribunal in Lokoja, the capital of Kogi State.
The tribunal ruled that Abubakar Ohere of the All Progressives Congress (APC) didn’t win fairly and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to take back the certificate they gave to Ohere. Instead, they said a new certificate should be given to Akpoti-Uduaghan.
The Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice K. A. Orjiako, explained that Ohere’s results were made to look better in nine polling units in Ajaokuta LGA, while Natasha’s results were made to look worse in those same nine units by the INEC officials. He also mentioned that three polling unit results for Natasha in the same area were purposely left out.
Nevertheless, Ohere issued a statement on Wednesday. He asked his supporters to stay calm and assured them that he would talk to his lawyers and use his right to appeal the judgement within the allowed timeframe.
The tribunal said, “Natasha’s results in the nine polling units of Ajaokuta LGA were 1073, against the 77 recorded by the Ward Collation officers, while those of the APC candidate, Abubakar Ohere, were inflated to 1553, against the actual figure of 1031.
“The tribunal is also convinced that the petitioners 996 votes in polling units 009, 046, and 049 polling units of Ganaja village of Ajaokuta LGA were deliberately not recorded at the Ward Collation Centre.”
The tribunal clarified that collation officers should not reject results from polling units if they mostly follow the electoral guidelines.
“The issues raised by the petitioner are hereby resolved in favour of the petitioner, and after making the proper correction, Natasha Akpoti-Uduagan (PDP), having polled 54,074 against Abubakar Ohere (APC), who polled 51,291, is hereby declared the authentic winner,” it said.
The court criticised INEC for stepping beyond its role of overseeing a fair election and cooperating with political parties to undermine the people’s choice. It instructed INEC to compensate Natasha with N500,000 for “subverting justice” in the senatorial election.
In reaction to the verdict, Akpoti-Uduagan’s lawyer, Johnson Usman (SAN), stated, “This is a victory for the people of Kogi Central Senatorial District, a victory for Kogi in general, and a victory for the election processes.”
Ohere, reacting to the tribunal verdict, issued a statement to newsmen in Lokoja on Wednesday, expressing shock over the court’s judgement that sacked him and promising to seek redress at a higher court.
It read, “I feel strongly that that decision is contrary to Paragraph 15 of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2022.
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“As a matter of fact, I presented before the Tribunal through my team of lawyers a decision of the Appellate Courts, which held that a respondent does not need to file a cross-petition to challenge votes in an election petition if the ground for challenging the election is the “majority of lawful votes.”
“While I am waiting for my team of lawyers to give me full details on the judgement, I urge all my supporters to be calm and peaceful, as their mandate is not lost. I verily know that I have the option of appeal at the Court of Appeal, which I shall exercise after due consultation with my lawyers. I urge my supporters not to be disturbed but to believe that we will get it right.”
Meanwhile, Senator Thomas Onowakpo of the APC, representing Delta South Senatorial District, was sacked by the Senatorial Election Tribunal sitting in Asaba, the Delta State capital, on Wednesday.
Justice Catherine Ogunsola, the Tribunal Chairman, while delivering the verdict, decided that Onowakpo’s certificate of return should be taken away. The tribunal also directed INEC to organise additional elections in the Warri South Local Government Area within the next 90 days.
Shortly after the judgement, INEC’s lawyer, Clark Ekpebe, mentioned that they would carefully review the judgement. He added that they still have the choice to file an appeal.
He said, “The judgement has been given, and we will go home and study the judgement. We have been asked to withdraw his certificate of return and conduct a supplementary election within 90 days.
“We have 60 days in the 90 days. Don’t forget, we have the option of appealing the case.”