2 July 2008

Nigeria: Tribunal Sacks Senator Ogunniya

Akure — Justice Joseph Ikyegh-led Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Akure, Ondo State, yesterday nullified the April 21, 2007 exercise which returned Senator Gbenga Ogunniya of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the Ondo South Senatorial seat.

Ogunniya, who is the Chairman of the Police Affairs Committee, was sacked due to petition by the Labour Party (LP) candidate for the poll, Mr Patrick Ayo Akinyelure.

Akinyelure, in his petition alleged that the exercise, which returned Ogunniya, who until yesterday was a third term senator in the Senate, was fraught with massive irregularities, including multiple voting, violence and signing of election results by political office holders.

Reading the judgment, Justice Ikyegh said the petitioner had been able to prove his petition beyond reasonable doubts, going by the documentary evidences advanced and results of the ballot recount exercise as ordered by the tribunal.

According to the judge, while the total number of ballot papers claimed by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to have been used was 273,404, results of the recount exercise ordered by the court revealed 183,200, leaving a disparity of 90,204, excluding the votes of Idanre Local Government, which left the balance at 61,296.

The judge, who gave the breakdown of the total number of illegally affected ballot due to either multiple thumb-printing, lack of human impression and those signed by 12 political office holders in specific terms, wards and local governments gave the figure as 167,157.

He said though the respondent (Ogunniya), still had a majority votes of 94,025 to 54,087 scored by the petitioner (Akinyelure) after all necessary deductions, the tribunal held that the exercise was characterised by multiple voting, inflation of results and other acts that contravened the Electoral Act 2006.

The judge held that all was not well with the manner the election was held in the whole senatorial district. He said a free and fair election must reflect the true wish of the electorate, adding that there was disharmony in the number of votes cast and the result recoded for the respondent.

The tribunal, therefore, ordered that a fresh election be held in the constituency within 90 days from yesterday.

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