Sitting in Abuja on Tuesday, the Court of Appeal set aside decisions in three distinct appeals brought before it on Senator Dino Melaye’s senatorial election, which was quashed by the National Assembly petition court last month.
The three distinct appeals were lodged by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) and Dino Melaye, with the three praying to the appeal court to set aside the tribunal’s majority judgment voiding Melaye of Kogi West Senatorial District’s election.
Justice Abubakar Datti Yahaya, who chaired the three appeals, announced that the date of delivery of the judgement will be communicated to the parties as quickly as it has been set.
PDP, represented in his final argument by Jubrin Okutepa (SAN), prayed to the court of appeal to set aside the tribunal’s majority judgment against Melaye on the grounds of rejection of fair hearing and failure to assess the proof adduced during the hearing.
The party stated that the tribunal failed to assess its witnesses’ testimonies while no reference was made to all the documentary proof it provided before the tribunal reached a incorrect overvoting conclusion, even when the petitioner failed to tender the register of voters.
PDP further stated that the court turned the head of natural justice upside down when it used the amount of permanent electoral cards gathered rather than the register of voters as necessary by legislation to cancel the senatorial election.
Therefore, the opposition party encouraged the three-man panel judges to invoke section 16 of the Court of Appeal Act and reject the petition for lack of merit.
In INEC’s second appeal, through its attorney, Kola Olowookere, the Court of Appeal was encouraged to reject the allegation that the election outcome was mutilated and to favor a specific candidate as alleged by the petitioner, Senator Smart Adeyemi, and the All Progressive Congress APC.
The governing body stated that the tribunal’s finding of over-voting was incorrect and baseless because in the contested region the voting register and election outcome in 2015 tallied with the outcome.
The legislative body claimed that the tribunal had not evaluated the exhibits it had tendered to demonstrate that there was no over-voting and pleaded that it would allow an appeal.
Dino Melaye’s third appeal, argued by Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), encouraged the Court of Appeal to set aside the tribunal’s decision on voting because it was based on hearsay rather than the outcomes of polling units officials
The senior counsel drew the Justices’ attention to the reality that only three witnesses had been called, adding that hearsay-based proof from the three witnesses could not justify canceling the senatorial election.
Melaye’s counsel further presented that the mutilation of the result sheet was untenable because officials of applicants and parties supported the final outcome of the senatorial election and the petitioners failed to establish that the supposed mutilated outcome had a substantial impact on the final outcome collation.
However, Senator Adeyemi and the All Progressive Congress (APC) opposed the appellants ‘ claims and pleaded with the appeal court to reject the three appeals on the grounds that appellants were not given fair hearing and that the tribunal based its results on INEC’s study, which included the amount of unit-by-unit voting cards gathered.
Adeyemi and APC, through their counsel, Adekunle Otitoju, asserted that INEC had infringed a federal high court order that the outcome of the senatorial election had to be collated and announced in Kabba, the headquarters of the senatorial district and not in Lokoja as the legislative body had done.
They alleged that while their agents were waiting for the collation in Kabba, the appellants ‘ INEC officials and agents allegedly colluded and secretly moved the result collation to Lokoja where they allegedly mutilated the result sheets in favor of Melaye.
They also insisted that the mutilation of outcomes, dated February 25 rather than February 23, was so evident and that over-voting was thus created to the tune of more than 48,000 votes.
Therefore, they encouraged the court to reject the appeals and uphold the tribunal’s majority judgment.