Ladi Adebutu of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, fights on over the outcome of the Ogun State governorship election.
In the March 18 governorship election, the incumbent Governor Dapo Abiodun of the All Progressives Congress, APC, was declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, having scored a total of 276,298 votes to defeat Adebutu with 13,915, as he polled 262,383 votes.
Candidate of the African Democratic Congress, ADC, Biyi Otegbeye came third with 94,754 votes.
But, Adebutu had filed a petition before the Ogun State election petition tribunal sitting in Abeokuta, asking the court to nullify the victory of Abiodun.
According to a copy of the petition obtained by VERIFIED NIGERIA, Adebutu and the PDP, in the petition, stated that the election of Abiodun, second respondent, was “invalid by reason of non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022 and by reason of corrupt practices.”
The petitioners claimed that Abiodun was not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the election and that he was, at the time of the election, not qualified to contest the election.
The Petitioners averred that the first respondent’s refusal to comply with the Electoral Act 2022 and other extant laws substantially affected the result of the election, saying Abiodun ought not to have been declared or returned as the winner of the election.
They claimed that there was: “over voting; votes cast more than the total number of voters accredited; alteration on Certified True Copies of results sheets not reflected on duplicate copies given to party agents; polling units without corresponding voting points result sheets; over and/or under balloting; and non-compliance with mandatory stipulated methods and steps.”
Others are: “Discrepancies between results sheets and digital accreditation records from the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS); discrepancies between result sheets and records on Voters’ Registers; the improper additions of figures on EC8A, EC8B and EC8C; alterations of information on customized result sheets; alterations of figures on result sheets; gross misconduct of electoral officers; the misappropriation of Ballot Papers and non-accounting of Ballot Papers.”
Adebutu and his party said there were several irregularities in about 845 polling units in various local government areas of Ogun State, including Ado-Odo/Ota, Ijebu North, Imeko-Afon, Ipokia, Yewa South, Ifo, Sagamu, Obafemi-Owode and others.
The petition filed by their counsel, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chris Uche, and others, claimed that INEC Presiding Officers, contrary to the provisions of the Electoral Act, “allowed persons who were not accredited with the BVAS machines to vote at the said election,” adding that in 34 polling units, the total votes cast were more than the total number of accredited voters as recorded on the BVAS machine.
One of the polling units is Ita Emilandu, Imeko Ward of Imeko-Afon Local Government, where the PDP claimed the total number of voters captured by BVAS was 216, but the sum of votes recorded was 1,322. With four votes rejected in the polling unit, the petitioners said the figure was inflated with 1,110 votes.
In OOLG school, Magboro, Ofada Ward of Obafemi-Owode LG, the party said that 230 persons were accredited by the BVAS machine, but 494 votes were recorded for the parties.
Likewise, Lafenwa Village Square in Iju Ward, Ado-Odo/Ota LG, 162 voters were reportedly accredited, but 293 votes were recorded on the INEC result sheets.
Adebutu also disclosed that there were five polling units where the number of accredited voters were more than the number of registered voters recorded on the Form EC8A’s.
One of such is Oja Ale polling unit in Ado-Odo Ward 1, Ado-Odo/Ota LG, where the total number of registered voters was 117, but 357 persons were allegedly indicated as having been accredited on the Form EC8A.
In 10 polling units, the total number of accredited voters as recorded on Form EC8A’s was reportedly more than the number of Permanent Voters Cards (PVC) collected for those polling units.
The petitioners alleged further that in 121 polling units, the total number of ballot papers used to cast valid votes for all the parties, plus the number of rejected ballot papers and spoilt ballot papers do not equal to the total ballot papers said to have been used in those polling units.
These “unaccounted ballot papers”, they said, “totalled 4, 899 and were thus used to inflate the scores allocated to the 2nd Respondent.”
At Ita Emilandu, Imeko Ward of Imeko-Afon LG, for instance, the petitioners claimed that the total number of ballot papers used, according to Form EC8A, was 216, but the sum of total votes was 1,322.
Adebutu and his party also disclosed that on the face of the Form EC8A’s in respect of 74 polling units, there were manifest discrepancies between the scores ascribed to the parties and the total votes cast as recorded in the total column of the Form EC8A’s, thereby making room for the INEC officials “to manipulate the outcome of the election in the affected polling units in favour of the second respondent.”
The petition read that, in 409 polling units, the total number of registered voters recorded in Form EC8A’s does not tally with the total number of voters on the Voters Registers, “which affected the outcome of the election in the affected polling units.”
Margin of lead
The petitioners contended that the declaration and the return of the second respondent as the winner of the Ogun State Governorship Election was in gross violation of the provisions of Sections 24(2 & 3); 47(3); 51(2) and 62 of the Electoral Act 2022.
According to them, during the conduct of the gubernatorial poll, elections were cancelled in 99 polling units, which cut across 41 wards and 16 Local Government Areas of Ogun State due to violent disruptions of the electoral process and over voting.
“The 1st Respondent having cancelled the election in the 99 polling, either due to disruption of the electoral process and/or over-voting failed to appoint another date to conduct a repeat election in those polling units in gross violation of the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022 and instead, hurriedly proceeded to declare the 2nd Respondent as the winner of the election despite the total number of collected Permanent Voters Cards (PVCS) being more than the difference between the scores of the 2nd Respondent and the 1″ Petitioner,” the PDP stated.
The petitioners further contended that the votes “ascribed” to Abiodun by INEC in the final declaration made is 276,298, while the votes purportedly credited to Adebutu is 262,383, resulting in a margin of lead of 13,915 votes.
It said that the PVC’s collected in the polling units where elections were cancelled across Ogun State in the election was 49,066, noting that the figure was over and above the 13,915 margin of lead between the first petitioner and the second respondent.
The petitioners maintained that INEC, by its “breach of the Margin of Lead Principle”, consequently disenfranchised a total of 49,066 registered voters in Ogun State who had collected their PVC’s and were ready to vote in the said election, which number would have greatly impacted on the true outcome of the election.
They contended that INEC, if truly acting as an unbiased umpire, ought to have declined to make a return for the election until fresh polls have been conducted in the affected polling units.
“The Petitioners contend and shall urge this Honourable Tribunal to hold that the result of the election will be greatly affected by the outcome of polls in the affected Polling Units if elections had been conducted in the said Polling Units before the wrongful declaration and return of the 2nd Respondent.
“The Petitioners shall further contend that the return of the 2nd Respondent as duly elected to the office of the Governor of Ogun State given the margin of lead and the Permanent Voters Cards (PVCS) collected was hasty, arbitrary, premature, undue and wrongful,” the petition read.
Claim on total valid votes
In summary, Adebutu claimed that there were a total of 1, 608 infractions such as over-voting; non-compliance with regulations for Ballot Papers accounting when using Forms EC8A; non-compliance with regulations for Ballot Papers accounting when using Forms EC40A; non-compliance with instructions for collating results, among others.
“Consequently, a total of 63, 015 votes will be deducted from the 2nd Respondent and a total of 35, 228 votes deducted from the 1st Petitioner; the 1st Petitioner will be leading the 2nd Respondent by a wide margin of 27, 787 lawful votes.
“The Petitioners in proof of this ground, hereby plead and shall rely on the extract of data from the BVAS as contained in the 1st Respondent’s electronic collation system/storage device.
“The Petitioners shall also rely on the data in the 1st Respondent’s electronic collation system and storage device for the period covering the period of 18th March 2023 to 20th March 2023, and the 1st Respondent is hereby also given notice to produce same before this Honourable Court,” the PDP avered.
In some of their prayers, the petitioners claimed that “it may be determined and declared that the 2nd Respondent was not duly elected or returned by a majority of lawful votes cast at the Governorship Election held in Ogun State on 18th March 2023.
“That it may be determined and declared that the 1st Petitioner won the highest number of valid votes cast at the election and satisfied the requirements of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and ought to be returned and is returned as the winner of the Governorship election held in Ogun State on 18th March 2023.
“An order of this Honourable Tribunal setting aside the Certificate of Return dated 20th day of March 2023 wrongly issued to the 2nd Respondent by the 1st Respondent.
“An order directing the 1st Respondent to immediately issue a Certificate of Return to the 1st Petitioner as the duly elected Governor of Ogun State.”
In the alternative: “An order of this Honourable Tribunal directing the 1st Respondent to conduct fresh election in the 99 polling units which cut across 41 wards and 16 Local Government Areas of Ogun State where elections were either not held and/or cancelled due to disruption and over-voting.
“An order of this Honourable Tribunal directing the 1st Respondent to conduct a fresh election for the office of Governor of Ogun State to the exclusion of the 2nd and 3rd Respondents.
“Any further appropriate consequential relief(s) that this Honourable Tribunal may deem fit and expedient to make in this Petition.”
Bring evidence to prove your claims – Abiodun
Meanwhile, the second respondent, Governor Abiodun has asked the petitioners to provide enough evidence in court to prove their allegations.
Abiodun said anybody can allege anything, however, whoever alleges must prove.
Speaking through his lawyer, Professor Taiwo Osipitan, Abiodun challenged Adebutu and the PDP to come and prove their claims, saying “we are waiting for them.”
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria told VERIFIED NIGERIA on Monday that his team would do its best to prove that the petitioners’ allegations were a figment of their imagination.
“People can allege anything, but he who alleges must prove. Let them come and prove, that is why we are here.
“We are waiting for them to bring their evidence to support whatever they have alleged.
“But then, let’s see. We will not judge but we will do our best to show that what they are saying is a figment of their imagination,” Osipitan said.