The Election Petitions Tribunal in Benin City, Edo State yesterday dismissed the petition of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the September 28, 2016 Edo governorship election and upheld the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), declaring Godwin Obaseki of the All Progressives Congress (APC) winner.
Ize-Iyamu and his party, PDP on October 16, dragged INEC, Obaseki and APC respectively, before the tribunal and sought the following reliefs: “That Ize- Iyamu be declared winner of
the election having scored the highest lawful votes; or nullify the election because INEC failed to substantially comply with the electoral act as amended; that Obaseki was not duly elected by lawful votes cast.”
But delivering judgment, the three-man tribunal, presided over by Justice Ahmed Badamasi made reference to issues for determination before arriving at their verdict.
In his judgment, Justice Badamasi listed the issues for determination to include: Whether the Ize-Iyamu is the same as Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu Andrew, who contested the election; whether the election of Obaseki was invalid, as a result of election malpractice; whether the court should declare the election in favour of Ize-Iyamu; whether by reasons of evidence, the petitioner has established reasons for non-compliance with the Electoral Act.
Against this backdrop, therefore, he said Ize-Iyamu’s petition could only succeed on the strength of his case and not out of the weaknesses of the respondents’ defense.
On whether Ize-Iyamu is different from Ize-Iyamu Andrew who contested the election on the platform of PDP, Justice Badamasi asserted that it was not in contest that the two names are the same since the respondents in their various depositions, have alluded to the fact that the two names are one and the same.
On corrupt practices, he said the petitioners made allegations of corrupt practices in many paragraphs of their petition, bordering several units in Owan East Local Government Area, but refused to call a single witness to prove their allegations, adding that this was an indication that they had abandoned the case.
“They chose to define their petition to non-compliance. We so hold that they have abandoned their pleadings,” Justice Badamasi declared, adding, “evidence without witness goes to no issue because petitioners do not have proof of their allegations of corrupt practices beyond reasonable doubt.”
He further said that the absence of a separate relief for now dealt a fatal blow to the petitioners’ request.
On the issue of none or improper accreditation, the tribunal averred that the peti- tioners failed to show where there was over accreditation of voters in the entire petition because there was argument
on the ticking to the right or left, saying that “evidence that leads to no specific issues, goes to no issue.”
Besides, the tribunal observed that the petitioner did not chal- lenge 15 units where he won with ticking once, but did so for other units, adding that “this, in our view, does not show good faith.”
Making reference to Election Manual Register 2016, the tribunal said manual provided for continuous registration and voting, therefore the process of accreditation and voting separately was abolished.
Accordingly, the tribunal noted that the petitioner’s heavy reliance on the Electoral Manual for non-accreditation was misplaced.
“For the petitioner to prove over-voting, he has to tender voters register-ballot papers not tendered. Evidence of witnesses from that regard, the petitioner’s failure to tender voters register, ballot papers and result has failed to prove over-voting.
“What probative value will the court attach to a report that was not subject to evaluation? The Makers of the report were not called to give evidence. Most of the evidence produced by INEC subpoenaed was tendered. In the petitioner’s attempt to prove their case of non-compliance, they called witnesses without evidence. None of the witnesses showed where there was misapplication of scores.
“The petitioners have not by credible evidence showed that they are entitled to their reliefs. We therefore dismiss the petition. Accordingly, the election Obaseki is hereby upheld. We thank all the senior counsels and their colleagues for all your cooperation,” the tribunal declared.
Reacting to the judgment, K.K. Eleja, Counsel to the petitioners thanked the tribunal judges for the wonderful judgment they delivered, asking that the Certified True Copies of the judgment be made available to them as soon as possible.
Governor Godwin Obaseki said the victory was for Edo people, adding that it would propel him to work for the good of the entire state.
Outside the court premises, supporters of the All Progres- sives Congress went into wild jubilation, singing victory songs as they danced through major streets of Benin.
Ize-Iyamu has described as porous the judgment of the Edo Elections Tribunal dismissing his petition.
Addressing PDP elders, leaders and supporters at his campaign office, he described the judgment as unacceptable and one that could not stand at the higher courts.
He said: “From the snippets I heard of the tribunal judge- ment, it cannot stand in the higher courts. This case must be pursued up to the Supreme Court.”
The PDP candidate, however, expressed gratitude to all, who in the last six months thronged the tribunal venue without any form of compensation, assuring them that the journey ahead would be shorter.
“I want to thank God that we have all been able to reach this part of the journey. What gladdens my heart is that God will vindicate us in the long run.
“Don’t be dismayed. We are still hoping for your support. I urge you all to be calm and refrain from being provoked into violence. Even if they push you laugh.”
On his part, the state chair- man of the PDP, Chief Dan Orbih confirmed the position of the party to appeal the tribunal’s ruling, saying, “definitely, we are going to appeal against the judgement; it is not acceptable to us.
“We have told our lawyers to appeal the judgement. The issues we raised in the petition were not addressed by the tribunal.
“I appeal to Edo people to remain calm but be resolute in our bid to reclaim the mandate given to Pastor Osagie Ize- Iyamu.”
He added “I want to tell you that we have just started the journey as a party. I have no doubt that we are fighting a just cause.”
Orbih said there was no need dwelling on details of what happened at the tribunal because “as soon as the party’s lawyers obtain a copy of the ruling on Tuesday, the ruling will be appealed.”
Commending elders, leaders and supporters of the party across the state for their show of solidarity, he said: “We have a duty to retrieve the mandate that was freely given to us by Edo people. The party will go on appeal.”
He then commended all Edo people for their support, even as he described Ize-Iyamu as a very good candidate who would definitely become the governor of Edo state in the long run.