By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Abuja & Gbenga Ariyibi,
The Ekiti State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, yesterday, affirmed Governor Ayodele Fayose of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as the winner of the governorship election held in the state on June 21.
The three-man panel which conducted its proceeding in Abuja, dismissed the petition filed against Fayose by the All Progressives Congress, APC.
The APC had in its petition, alleged that the election “witnessed an unprecedented level of rigging, manipulation of voters register and wide spread election malpractices,” as well as queried the legal qualification of Fayose to participate in the process.
The party argued that Fayose was found guilty of embezzlement and violation of code of conduct for public officers, in 2006, following which he was impeached from office.
Relying on the provision of Sections 182 (1) (j) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, the APC stated that Fayose ought not to have been allowed to participate in the election, adding that the Higher National Diploma certificate he purportedly obtained from the Federal Polytechnic, Ibadan, upon which he was cleared to contest, was forged.
Consequently, the party sought the nullification of the election over alleged non-compliance with the Electoral Act, and asked for the withdrawal of the Certificate of Return issued to Fayose by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
Furthermore, it told the tribunal that the provisions of Sections 19 and 20 of the Electoral Act made it mandatory that the voters register must be displayed at least 30 days before the election, adding that this was not complied with, even as armed soldiers and policemen were used to arrest and detain several chieftains of the party, pointing out that the alleged action of the security men led to the disenfranchisement of its members.
It stated that the number of people whose names were ticked in the register used for the election, did not correspond with number of people that actually voted.
Cited as respondents in the matter were the PDP, Fayose, INEC, the Chief of Army Staff and the Inspector General of Police.
The petitioner called 11 witnesses before the Tribunal, as well as tendered the alleged forged HND certificate bearing the name of one Oluwayose Ayodele, through the Registrar of the Federal Polytechnic Ibandan.
However , the Tribunal headed by Justice Siraj Mohammed, dismissed all the grounds raised in the petition, saying the petitioner failed to prove any of the allegations.
The panel held that the issue of non-display of register as stipulated in the Electoral Act, could not be raised after declaration of election results, noting that was a pr-election matter and outside its jurisdiction.
It also, held that section 182 of the constitution did not include impeachment as a ground for disqualification of a candidate for an election, adding that the impeachment panel that was constituted by the then Chief Judge of Ekiti State, Justice Jubril Aladejana, lacked the constitutional powers to declare anyone guilty of contravening the code of conduct for public officers.
It voided the report of the seven-man investigative panel that found Fayose guilty in 2006, “from whom or where did Justice Aladejana derive the fiat to constitute the panel,?” the tribunal queried, stressing that the APC neither pleaded nor tendered the letter through which the Speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly requested the Chief Judge to constitute the impeachment panel.
“Such letter is the very foundation upon which the validity of the impeachment can be ascertained. The absence of such request robs the Chief Judge of the exercise of such constitutional power to set up a seven-panel.
“The panel was not properly constituted according to law. Does the panel have the powers to have found the Fayose guilty of abuse of code of conduct on allegations of embezzlement of fund? Our answer is emphatic No!, as only a competent court or the Code of Conduct Tribunal have such powers.
“The investigative panel lacked the constitutional vires to return the verdict of guilty as they did in exhibit M & M1. The APC, gave hearsay evidence.”
It also struck out names of the Chief of Army Staff and the Inspector General of Police, from the petition, stressing that the alleged wrongdoings by some soldiers or police men did not make them a necessary party in an election matter.
The tribunal held that neither the particulars of the accused security officers, the agents of PDP allegedly used to rig the election nor names of the polling units where the “wide spread electoral malpractices” took place, were supplied by the petitioner pointing out that the APC could not in one hand, claim that the election was not conducted in compliance with the Electoral Act, and still urge the tribunal to declare its own candidate at the poll, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, as the winner.
It noted that out of a total of 177 electoral wards, 1,700 polling units in Ekiti State, the petitioner only produced 11 witnesses, with six of them from one local government area, to prove wide spread election malpractice stressing that the party ought to have called at least a witness from all or majority of the polling units, as well as tender voters cards, registers it claimed were improperly ticked or admitted in favour of Fayose.
On alleged certificate forgery, it held that APC ought to have at least called an official of the Polytechnic to testify or produced the original owner of the said certificate. It described the allegation as weighty, saying the fact that it was criminal in nature, meant that the matter ought to have been reported to security agencies for prosecution.
“The burden of proof rests squarely on the petitioner and it has failed to discharge that burden. Accusation of forgery being a criminal offence must be proved beyond reasonable doubt. There is nothing before the tribunal to show that the HND certificate was forged or was earned or awarded to any other person on the planet earth aside the 2nd Respondent.
“On the whole, all the issues and reliefs sought have been resolved against the petitioner and the petition is hereby dismissed”, the panel added.
Meanwhile, Ekiti State Governor, Mr Ayo Fayose has lauded the judiciary for its sound judgment by dismissing a suit instituted by All Progressive Congress(APC) challenging his victory during the June 21 governorship election
According to the statement signed in Ado Ekiti yesterday by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor ,Mr Idowu Adelusi commended the judiciary and for upholding justice in its deliverance of justice.