Jime v Ortom: Tribunal reserves judgment

The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, has reserved judgment in the petition by Emmanuel Jime of the All Progressives Congress (APC) challenging the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for returning Samuel Ortom as winner of the 2019 governorship election.

When the petition came up for adoption of final written address yesterday, the lead counsel to Ortom, Sabastine Hon SAN, urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition with substantial cost, saying it ought not to have been filed.

Hon said the petition is “bedevilled and riddled with fundamental errors and that no reasonable tribunal will grant any relief to it. It is self- contradictory in many respects in terms of the figures and scores of the candidates; it is also contradictory to the evidence led.”

It was his contention that Jime, who contested the 2019 Benue governorship election, is different from the one that instituted the petition “because of variation in the scores at the poll and those complained of in the petition. As a matter of fact, in paragraph 5.06, page 37 of their final written address, the petitioners admit that there were errors in the petition. And in reproducing exhibit P2 (summary of result form), there are over 50 errors.”

Hon said the law is settled that a mistake that is not corrected is fatal.

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Moving the tribunal to dismiss the petition, Offiong Offiong SAN, who is leading a team of lawyers for INEC, submitted that contrary to argument by Jime’s counsel that only minimal proof rather than balance of probability is required, the petitioners must prove their case on the balance of probability and not on minimal prove. He cited the authority of Ucha Vs Elechi 2012 13NWLR Part 330 at Page 359.

Chief Chris Uche SAN, who appeared for the PDP, while urging the tribunal to dismiss the petition, said it was founded upon misconception of well-established principles of electoral jurisprudence.

However, Yusuf Ali SAN, who appeared for Jime and APC, prayed the tribunal to uphold the petition, nullify the election of Ortom and declare Jime and APC as the rightful persons to be given the Certificate of Return as winner of the 2019 Benue governorship election.

He told the tribunal that Ortom’s lawyers misconstrued the tables and figures in the petitioners’ final written address.

“He (Hon SAN) seems to have forgotten that the contention in the petition is the incorrect figures recorded by INEC in Forms EC8A and the petitioners cannot rely on same. Where the tribunal finds that unlawful votes are credited to any of the parties, the tribunal has the powers under the law to nullify such votes,” Ali said.

After hearing the lawyers, the Chairman of the tribunal, Honourable Justice Henry Olusiyi, held that judgment in the petition is reserved to a date that shall be communicated to the parties.

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