Tribunal upholds Ododo’s election victory

By Innocent Raphael

The Kogi Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in Abuja has dismissed the petition filed by Murtala Ajaka, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) governorship candidate, challenging the election victory of Governor Usman Ododo.

The tribunal’s judgment, delivered on Monday, May 27, brings an end to Ajaka’s legal efforts to contest the outcome of the November 11, 2023, off-cycle election, which was plagued by allegations of rigging and vote-buying.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Ododo of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of the disputed election.

Ajaka and the SDP, alleging widespread irregularities, sought to overturn the election results. During a pivotal hearing on Friday, April 26, legal representatives for INEC, Ododo, and the APC opposed an attempt by Ajaka’s lawyer, Jibrin Okutepa (SAN), to introduce Edidiong Udoh, a digital forensic expert, as a witness.

Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), Alex Iziyon (SAN), and Emmanuel Ukala (SAN), representing INEC, Ododo, and the APC respectively, argued that Udoh’s name was not included in the initial proof of evidence, and his witness statement was not submitted with the petition.

They also claimed that the expert’s analysis report was served to them only 20 minutes before the proceedings, providing inadequate notice.

Despite Okutepa’s assertion that the forensic expert was listed on Page 56 of the petition and that his statement was indeed front-loaded, the tribunal ruled against Ajaka and the SDP.

The tribunal’s decision marks the end of this phase of Ajaka’s challenge, as it remains to be seen whether he and the SDP will seek further legal recourse at the Court of Appeal.

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