Vanguard (Lagos)

2 July 2008

Nigeria: Ondo Tribunal Sacks Senator Ogunniya

THE Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Akure, the Ondo State capital, yesterday, nullified the election of the Chairman, Senate Committee on Police Affairs, Senator Gbenga Ogunniya, for non-compliance with the provision of the Electoral Act 2006.

Ogunniya, a third-term Senator, who is the first causalty among senators representing the state in the Upper Legislative Chambers, however, told newsmen that he would appeal the judgment of the tribunal.

According to him, despite all the deductions by the tribunal, "I still have the majority votes which shows that the people voted for me but l am sure that the Appeal Court would upturn the verdict of the tribunal."

He represented the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Central Senatorial District of the state at the Senate.

Delivering a two-hour judgment in a petition filed by the Labour Party Senatorial candidate, Dr. Pius Akinyelure, who challenged his victory at the April 21 election, the tribunal Chairman Justice Joseph Ikyegh ordered for a fresh election within 60 days.

Akinyelure, who challenged the respondent's victory in five out of the six local government areas constituting the senatorial district, called 28 witnesses to prove his claims that the election was marred by irregularities.

The contested areas are Akure North, Akure South, Ondo East, Ondo West and Ifedore while the petitioner did not contest Idanre Local Government Area.

Justice Ikyegh said that the petitioner was able to prove allegation of malpractices in the April 21 election beyond reasonable doubt.

According to the tribunal, the prayer of the petitioner that he should be declared the winner of the election could not be answered because after all the deductions of over 90,000 votes, Senator Ogunniya still had 94,025 as against that of the petitioner who scored 54,087.

Justice Ikyegh declared: "There is no basis to return the petitioner because the electorate in the district were not given the free will to exercise their voting right in picking the candidate of their choice."

He declared: "We find it imperative that there is need for us to meet the electorate's yearning of having a good and better representative rather than meeting the contestant's expectation."

INEC had recorded 188,055 votes for Ogunniya and 54,087 for the petitioner after the April 21 election in the Central Senatorial District area of the state.

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