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INEC closes defence in SDP, Ajaka’s petition against Ododo

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), on Tuesday, closed its defence in the petition filed by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and its candidate, Murtala…

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), on Tuesday, closed its defence in the petition filed by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and its candidate, Murtala Ajaka, against the election victory of Gov. Usman Ododo of Kogi.

INEC’s counsel, Uchenna Njoku, made this known to the Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, shortly after he tendered more documents against the SDP’s petition.

Njoku told the three-member panel of justices, led by Justice Ado Birnin-Kudo, that INEC did not intend to call any witness having assessed the case of the petitioners.

“My lords, the 1st respondent, having reviewed the state of pleadings in this petition, the evidence elicited from petitioners’ witnesses under cross examination, and the documents so far tendered in evidence by the 1st respondent, considers it reasonable not to further belabour the tribunal with the calling of witnesses.

“In the circumstances, the 1st respondent (INEC) applies to close its case,” the lawyer said.

Justice Birnin-Kudo, who declared the commission’s case closed, adjourned the matter until April 16 for Gov. Ododo (2nd respondent) to open its defence.

It would be recalled that INEC conducted the Kogi governorship election on November 11, 2023.

However, the SDP and its governorship candidate in the poll are challenging the declaration of Ododo of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of the poll.

In the petition, INEC, Ododo and APC are listed as 1st to 3rd respondents respectively.

Earlier in the course of Tuesday’s proceedings, Njoku told the tribunal that INEC brought the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) devices used for the election as ordered by the court on Nov. 25, 2023.

Njoku also tendered three sets of documents, which included a letter, dated Feb. 22 forwarding the BVAS, a document containing the summary of the BVAS devices and another documents containing the BVAS’ identification numbers.

When Njoku applied to tender the documents, Ibrahim Sanni Mohammed, SAN, who appeared for Ododo and Ayo Asala, SAN, who appeared for the APC, did not object to the admissibility of the exhibits.

Lawyer to SDP and Ajaka, Pius Akubo, SAN, objected on the grounds that it was only documents that were tendered without the actual exhibits.

Ruling, tribunal’s Chairman, Justice Birnin-Kudu, admitted the documents as exhibits and marked them accordingly.

The BVAS tendered were in relation to seven LGAs, including Okehi, Ajaoukuta, Basa, Ogori-Magongo, Lokoja, Adavi and Okene.

Meanwhile, Ododo has indicated his readiness to open his defence on Wednesday.

His lawyer, Mohammed, disclosed this upon being asked by the tribunal’s chairman when the 2nd respondent was willing to open his defence.

Mohammed assured the tribunal that his client was ready to commence his defence on Wednesday.

NAN reports that the electoral umpire, on Monday, tendered some electoral documents used in the conduct of the poll in defence of its case.(NAN)

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