By Stephen Gbadamosi
The National and State Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting at Iyaganku, Ibadan, Oyo State capital, has ordered the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) to conduct a re-run election in two polling units of Saki West within 90 days, having found the allegation of over-voting, and voters’ disenfranchisement by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Okedoyin Femi Julius, meritorious.
Okedoyin, a member of the Oyo State House of Assembly, who contested on March 18, 2023 with the intention of returning to the House, filed the petition against the All Progressives Congress (APC) counterpart, Shittu Ibraheem, the party and the INEC that conducted the election.
In the judgment read by Justice Jibril Isa Anaja with the unanimous agreement of Justices A.M. Yakubu (chairman) and K.I. Okpe, the panel ordered that the Certificate of Returns issued to Ibraheem by the INEC “be set aside, pending any appeal to the judgment,” saying he made no order as to cost.
Represented by Y. A. Azees, Yusuff Anikulapo and Joseph Adeoye, the petitioners had claimed that election in six polling units in the Saki West state constituency was fraught with irregularities, as some results in some polling units were cancelled due to over-voting which was part of non-compliance with the electoral guidelines.
It was held that particularly, in Ward 6 Unit 7 and Ward 11 Unit 19, loyalists of the PDP who wanted to vote were disenfranchised from doing so.
This, the petitioners claimed, constituted substantial non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, while praying that the tribunal should order a re-run in the two units.
The units and wards where the election was also allegedly compromised with over-voting included: Ward 11 Unit 13, Ward 9 Unit 24, Ward 1 Unit 14, Ward 9 Unit 28, and Ward 11 Unit 19.
Represented by Sikiru Adewoye and M.K. Owolabi, the APC and Ibraheem, as well as, the INEC, represented by Ayodeji Akerele and Fiyinfoluwa Ajiboye, had filed preliminary objections to the petition, urging the tribunal to dismiss it with substantial cost.
Their ground was that the allegation of over-voting and disenfranchisement of the accredited PDP voters were frivolous and unfounded.
In their judgment, the tribunal found that the “1,285 electorate that collected their PVCs were disenfranchised and the number is capable of upsetting the outcome of the election. The third Respondent (INEC) acted in utter disregard of its regulation by declaring the first respondent as winner of the election.
“Where votes cast exceed the number of registered voters, the Presiding Officer shall cancel the result and a re-run is subsequently ordered.
“The petitioners have proved their case in the allegation of over-voting and substantial non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act.
“We, hereby, resolve the issues raised in favour of the petitioners against the respondents. A re-run election is, hereby, ordered to be conducted within 90 days in Ward 6 Unit 7 and Ward 11 Unit 19 of Saki West to determine the overall winner of the March 18, 2023 election.
“We hold that the petition is meritorious and it succeeds. We, hereby, order that the Certificate of Returns issued by the third respondent to the first respondent be set aside, pending any appeal to this judgment. No order as to cost,” the tribunal ordered.