The Court of Appeal in Abuja Tuesday reserved judgments in three separate appeals brought before it on the senatorial election of Senator Dino Melaye, which was last month quashed by the National Assembly election petition tribunal.
The three separate appeals were brought by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), and Dino Melaye; with the three praying the appellate court to set aside the majority decision of the tribunal, which voided the election of Melaye of the Kogi West Senatorial District.
Justice Abubakar Datti Yahaya, who presided over the three appeals announced that the date for judgment delivery would be communicated to parties as soon as it is fixed.
PDP, represented by Jubrin Okutepa (SAN) in his final argument prayed the appeal court to set aside the majority decision of the tribunal against Melaye on the grounds of denial of fair hearing and refusal to evaluate evidence adduced during the hearing.
The PDP 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 the conclusion of over-voting, even when the petitioner did not tender a voters register.
PDP further claimed that the tribunal turned the head of natural justice upside down when it used over-voting as a basis for cancelling the election, using the number of collected permanent voter cards rather than voter register as required by law.
PDP 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 petitioner, 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 election in 2015 tallied with the result in the disputed area.
The electoral body alleged that the tribunal did not evaluate the exhibits it tendered to prove that there was no over-voting and pleaded that the 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 polling units agents’ results.
The senior counsel, 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.
Adeyemi and APC through their counsel, Adekunle Otitoju, argued that INEC breached an order of the federal high court to the effect that the senatorial election result must be collated and announced in Kabba, the senatorial district headquarters and not in Lokoja as done by the electoral body.
They alleged that while their agents were in Kabba waiting for the collation, the INEC officials and agents of the appellants allegedly colluded and secretly moved the result collation to Lokoja where the result sheets were allegedly mutilated to favour Melaye.
They also insisted that mutilation of results, dated February 25 instead of February 23, was so apparent and that over voting was so established to the tune of over 48,000 votes.
They therefore urged the court to dismiss the appeals and uphold the majority decision of the tribunal.