Adebayo Adenrele

…says no over voting

…Oyebanji, APC others open defence October 18

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has told the Election Petition Tribunal on Thursday that the June 18, 2022 governorship election it conducted in Ekiti State was free, fair, credible and conducted in line with global best practices.

The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Dr. Adeniran Tella, averred that the Commission’s officials who officiated in the election complied with the provisions of the Electoral Act and Election Guidelines in the conduct of the poll.

Tella, who was represented by the Deputy Director and Head of Operations, Ekiti INEC Office, Mr. Temitope Oluwaseun Aina, also said the Commission was not aware of any incident of vote buying as alleged by the Petitioners and there was no inflation of figures in any of the units where the election was conducted.

The INEC chief who was summoned by subpoena to give evidence at the Tribunal while under cross-examination by counsel to Respondents further affirmed that the total number of votes cast and collated by the electoral agency at the Ekiti governorship poll corresponded with the number of voters accredited.

The witness said the Bimodal Voters Authentication System (BVAS) Machines used to accredited voters functioned well and perfectly and were not in anyway compromised during the conduct of the Ekiti governorship election adding that there was no manual collation and indiscriminate recording at any of the polling units.

Chief Segun Oni, who lost the governorship election and his party, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), who are the 1st and 2nd Petitioners in the case, are before the Tribunal challenging the result declared by INEC which returned the Mr. Biodun Oyebanji, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of the election.

Respondents in the Petition are the Governor-elect Oyebanji (1st), the APC (2nd), Alhaji Mai Mala Buni (3rd), INEC (4th) and the Deputy Governor-elect, Mrs. Monisade Afuye (5th).

The Ekiti INEC boss who was earlier led in examination-in-chief by counsel to the Petitioners, Mr. Owoseni Ajayi, also brought before the Tribunal electoral documents and materials needed on giving evidence said he didn’t bring the BVAS Machine and used and unused ballot papers because they were not part of what he was directed to bring by subpoena.

The witness explained that documents and materials requested for by the Petitioners were not given to them on time because they didn’t pay the prescribed fees revealing that the documents and materials were only made available to them after they had paid the fees on 8th September, 2022 hence the issuance of Exhibits A13, A14, A15 and A16 hence INEC was not liable for the alleged delay.

He also dismissed the allegations of the Petitioners that they were not allowed to inspect the electoral materials maintaining that the Commission allowed the inspection of the materials.

.Oyebanji, APC others open defence October 18

.Panel admits more documents as exhibits

The Social Democratic Party (SDP) governorship candidate, Chief Segun Oni, on Thursday closed their case at the Ekiti State Election Petition Tribunal hearing the dispute emanating from the June 18 governorship election.

Oni, through his counsel, Mr. Owoseni Ajayi, closed his case at the resumption of hearing at 3.00pm after the Tribunal had ruled and marked several electoral documents as Exhibits.

The decision to close the case of the Petitioners was a surprise to the Respondents and many of the observers who were in the courtroom to monitor the proceedings.

Ajayi informed the three-member Panel led by the Chairman, Justice Wilfred Kpochi, that since the Petitioners had no further witnesses to call to testify in their favour, they would be closing their case.

Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), who is the counsel to the 1st Respondent, the Governor-elect, Mr. Biodun Oyebanji and the 5th Respondent, the Deputy Governor-elect, Mrs. Monisade Afuye, said the Petitioners’ decision to close their case sooner than expected caught him by surprise.

He said: “There was no hint that they (Oni and SDP) would close their case so soon. We had no inkling that the case would be closed so soon. May I ask for 14 days to gather our witnesses together and open our defence.”

But the Tribunal Chairman remarked that the Panel expected 1st and 5th Respondents to start bringing their witnesses from tomorrow (Friday) so as not to entertain any delay in hearing the petition following the surprise closure of the Petitioners’ case.

Justice Kpochi stressed that the Panel would not tolerate any long adjournment and would want to stick to the decisions reached by the parties during the Pre-Trial Session.

It was at this stage that the Tribunal Chair consulted with the other two members of the Panel and proceeded to write the ruling on the next line of action on when the Respondents would open their defence.

Delivering the short ruling, Justice Kpochi said the 1st and 5th Respondents had sufficient time to assemble their witnesses but said the Panel would grant an adjournment till Tuesday, 18th October.

The adjournment, according to the panel boss, was on condition that all the Respondents in the petition shall bring their witnesses one after the other with each of them expected to open defence shortly immediately after the order is closing its case.

Justice Kpochi further ruled that all the Respondents should follow the list of their witnesses. The Tribunal rose at 3.39pm.

Earlier before the Petitioners closed their case, the Tribunal provisionally admitted and marked some documents as Exhibits.

These include Forms EC8B, EC8D, INEC document for deployment of collation officers, letter written by the law firm of Owoseni Ajayi and Associates to INEC, BVAS Report, INEC reply to the letter from the law firm of Owoseni Ajayi and Associates, Form EC9, APC final list of aspirants, INEC document on distribution of ballot papers and serial numbers, list of INEC staff deployed to local government areas, among others.