The Court of Appeal in Abuja has reserved judgments in three separate appeals brought before it on the ruling of the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal which sacked Senator Dino Melaye as the lawmaker representing Kogi West district.
The three separate appeals were filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), and the lawmaker.
The appellants prayed the court to set aside the majority decision of the Tribunal which voided the election of Senator Melaye.
Justice Datti Yahaya, who presided over the three appeals on Tuesday, announced that the date for judgment delivery would be communicated to parties as soon as it is fixed.
The PDP, represented by Jubrin Okutepa, in his final argument prayed the appellate court to set aside the majority decision of the Tribunal against Senator Melaye on the ground that he was denied fair hearing and refusal to evaluate the evidence adduced during the hearing.
It claimed that the Tribunal failed to evaluate the testimonies of its witnesses and no reference was made to all the documentary evidence it supplied before the Tribunal before it came to a wrong conclusion of over-voting, even when the petitioner did not tender a voter register.
Justice Upside Down?
The party further alleged 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 (PVCs) rather than voter register as required by law.
It, therefore, urged the three-man panel of justices to invoke Section 16 of the Court of Appeal Act and dismiss the petition for lacking in merit.
In the second appeal filed by INEC, through its lawyer, Kola Olowookere, the Appeal Court was urged to dismiss the allegation of mutilation of election result and favouring a particular candidate as alleged by the petitioners, Senator Smart Adeyemi and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The electoral body argued that the finding of over-voting by the Tribunal was wrong and baseless because the voter register and result of the election in 2015 tallied with the result in the disputed area.
It alleged that the Tribunal did not evaluate the exhibits it tendered to prove that there was no over voting and pleaded that appeal be allowed.
The third appeal filed by Dino Melaye and argued by Dr Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), urged the Appeal Court to set aside the over-voting decision of the Tribunal because it was based on hearsay instead of results by polling units’ agents.
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.
He also 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.
Senator Adeyemi and the APC opposed the arguments of the appellants and pleaded with the appellate court to dismiss the three appeals.
They made the plea on the ground that the 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.
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