By David Mzer
The Benue State governorship election petition tribunal sitting in Makurdi has upheld the victory of Governor Samuel Ortom of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as the valid winner of the March 9, and March 23rd, 2019 governorship election in Benue State.
In a unanimous decision, the three-man panel chaired by Justice Henry Olusiyi dismissed the petition of the All Progressives Congress, APC candidate, Emmanuel Jime challenging Ortom's victory.
Reading the judgement which lasted for 9 hours, Justice Olusiyi said Jime, who is the first petitioner failed to provide substantial evidences to prove his allegations of over voting, non-compliance with the provisions of Electoral Act, 2010, as amended and that the second respondent, Governor Ortom did not score the majority of lawful votes .
He held that the burden of proof in election petition matters rests squarely on the petitioner, and the standard is on the basis probabilities and not minimal proof, adding that the petitioner have failed to discharge the burden of proof,but only dumped documents at the tribunal.
He averred that when a petitioner makes non-compliance the basis of his petition, he must show cogent evidence to prove his averment polling unit by polling unit, ward by ward and how non-compliance affected the outcome of the election in favor of his opponent.
He added that the petitioners alleged non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act in 380 polling units but only called witnesses in 30 polling units, adding that it was impossible for 30 people to prove non-compliance in 380 polling units.
The tribunal stressed that the smart card reader is essentially for identification of the permanent voters card of a would-be voter, while the voters register is for accreditation of a would-be voter.
It maintained that until section 49 of the Electoral Act, 2010, is amended, the permanent voters registers remains the instrument for accreditation and the smart card reader machine cannot be the basis of challenging any election, as doing so will amount to forming clouds and winds without rain.
The tribunal described the testimony of the witnesses called by the petitioner as inadmissible hear say evidence, contradictory, inconsistent unreliable, untruthful without any value .
It held that it was satisfied that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, conducted the March 9 and March 23,2019 governorship election in Benue State in compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010,as amended.
Reacting to the judgment, Governor Ortom’s lead counsel, Chief Sebastian Hon, SAN, described the ruling as sound, adding that if the petitioners appeal the judgement, he will file a cross appeal.
Also commenting on the judgement, the State Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Sir John Ngbede said the judgement of the tribunal is a reflection of what happened at the polls on March 9 and February 23,2019.