The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division on Friday, refused to invalidate the August 23, 2019, judgement of the Kogi State National/State Assembly Election Tribunal, which nullified the election of Dino Melaye as Senator representing Kogi West in the National Assembly.
Delivering judgement on the appeal filed by Melaye, challenging the tribunal’s verdict, a 3-man panel of Justices led by Yahaya Dattijo, unanimously held that the appeal lacked merit.
The tribunal’s decision was on a petition filed by Senator Smart Adeyemi and the All Progressives Congress, APC, challenging the result of the senatorial election held on February 23, 2019, which Melaye had won.
A 3-man tribunal led by Justice A.O. Chijioke, had in a split judgement of two-to-one, ordered INEC to conduct a fresh election for the Kogi West Senatorial District.
The appellate panel opined that it found no cogent reason that would sway it to set aside the judgement of the tribunal, and therefore struck out Melaye’s appeal challenging the majority decision of the tribunal.
Consequently, the appeal court panel had to order the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a fresh election in Kogi West Senatorial District within 90 days.
Dissatisfied with the outcome of the petition filed at the tribunal, Melaye headed to the appeallate court.
At the Appeal Court, the three separate appeals were instituted by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) and Dino Melaye.
All the three appeals had prayed the appellate court to set aside the majority decision of the tribunal, which voided Melaye’s election.
Jubrin Okutepa (SAN) who represented PDP, in his final argument prayed the appeal court to set aside the majority decision of the tribunal against Melaye on the ground of denial of fair hearing and refusal to evaluate evidence adduced during the hearing.
The party had claimed that the tribunal failed to evaluate the testimonies of its witnesses while no reference was made to all the documentary evidence it supplied before the tribunal came to a wrong conclusion of over voting, even when the petitioner did not tender voter register.
The PDP further claimed that the tribunal turned the head of natural justice upside down when it based over voting used in cancelling the senatorial election on the number of collected permanent voter cards rather than voter register as required by law.
In the third appeal filed by Dino Melaye and argued by Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), he urged the Appeal Court to set aside the over voting decision of the tribunal because it was based on hearsay instead of polling units agents’ results
Ikpeazu drew the attention of the Justices to the fact that only three witnesses were called, adding that the evidence of the three witnesses based on hearsay cannot justify the cancellation of the senatorial election.
Melaye’s counsel further submitted that mutilation of result sheet was untenable because the final result of the senatorial election was endorsed by agents of the candidates and the parties, and that the petitioners failed to establish that the alleged mutilated result substantially affected the final result collation.
However, Senator Adeyemi and the All Progressives Congress (APC) opposed the arguments of the appellants and pleaded with the appellate court to dismiss the three appeals because appellants were not denied fair hearing and that the tribunal based its findings on over voting on the report of INEC which comprehensively contained the number of collected voter cards unit by unit.