Tribunal Nullifies Senate President David Mark's Election

No Comments » February 23rd, 2008 posted by // Categories: Elections 2007



 

GUARDIAN

 

Sunday, February 24, 2008              

Tribunal Sacks David Mark

  • Mixed Reactions Greet Judgment
    From Simeon Nwakaudu, Makurdi

    SENATE President, David Mark, yesterday became the latest casualty in the serial nullification of election results in Benue State. The State Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Makurdi struck down his victory in the disputed April 2007 polls.

    The tribunal had already cancelled the election of the other two senators representing the state in the National Assembly.

    Mark, a retired Brigadier-General and former Communications Minister, represents the Benue South senatorial district.

    The verdict on the Mark case came in the wake of allegations of forgery and alterations on the result forms tendered by the petitioner, Mr. Usman Abubakar, to argue a case of over-voting in two council areas of the state.

    Abubakar was alleged to have made the alterations and forgery when INEC officials released to him the exhibits in the custody of the tribunal for examination.

    Thus, the petitioner, a candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), was on Friday, eve of the tribunal judgment, interrogated by the police in the state.

    Giving its ruling yesterday, the election tribunal noted that the returning officer for the district was right to have declared the elections inconclusive after he had cancelled the results of Agatu and Okpokwu local government areas.

    In a 150-page judgment delivered in three hours and 15 minutes, the tribunal chairman, Justice C.I Uriri, ordered INEC to conduct fresh elections into the two cancelled local government areas, which constitute 25.4 percent of the senatorial district.

    The tribunal declared that contrary to the prayer of the petitioner that he be declared winner on the basis of the total valid votes in the seven councils out of the nine councils of the district, there was need for fresh elections in the two councils, as declaring the petitioner would amount to denying a large number of the people of the district the opportunity to decide who their senator should be.

    According to Justice Uriri: “From the totality of evidence, the results of Agatu and Okpokwu Local Government Areas were cancelled. The reports of three senior police officers, who provided security for the election, were unanimous that the elections were cancelled.

    “Having announced the cancellation of the results, the returning officer cannot, in the comfort of INEC office, change his decision and re-collate the results.”

    The tribunal said that the result of the election, as announced at the Otukpo District collation centre, before crisis ensued, remains the authentic result. It shows that the ANPP scored 172,029 votes and the PDP 98,029 votes.

    The tribunal said that the result announced at the collation centre did not include the result of PDP for Oju Local Government where there was no contention.

    On whether the cancellation of the results of the two local councils by the INEC senatorial returning officer, Lawrence Osungoruwa, was justified, the tribunal ruled that from the voter registers tendered before it, which were certified by INEC staff, the registers were irregularly ticked, indicating that voting was not properly conducted.

    The tribunal said that it discountenanced the manual voter registers, which INEC later tendered, which they declared were used in conjunction with the Electronic Voter Registers that did not capture all voters.

    The tribunal added that the result forms, which were altered, indicate over-voting and wrongful allocation of votes, which were in line with the allegations of the petitioner.

    On the issue of forgery and alteration of election result forms presented by the petitioner in evidence, which were at variance with those that were front-loaded by the same petitioner, the tribunal ruled that it was true that there were forgeries and alterations on the result forms in the two local governments in contention, indicating over-voting and allocation of votes.

    Justice Uriri, however, said that from the panel’s analysis, the respondents stood to benefit from the alterations, which indicated that there were over-voting and alteration of votes that tallied with the pleadings of the petitioner, when his petition was filed.

    He placed the alterations at the doorsteps of the INEC staff, who certified the copies of the result forms for the petitioner, which were later tendered in evidence by the petitioner, to prove his case of over-voting and wrongful allocation of votes.

    In his remarks, counsel for the petitioner, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), described the judgment as sound and well considered.

    However, counsel to the Senate President, Mr. Paul Erokoro (SAN), said that the judgment had too many flaws, saying that his client would test its veracity at the Appeal Court.

    He said that even in the seven councils that the tribunal claimed elections were properly conducted, it curiously refused to credit votes for the Senate President in one of the councils, indicating that the votes of the Oju Local Government people don’t count.

    Counsel to INEC, Amaechi Nwaiwu (SAN), said that there were several grounds of appeal in the judgment, stressing that the tribunal based its ruling on the reports of cancellation of three police officers, who were never cross-examined, to ascertain the veracity of their reports. He described the officers’ reports as hearsay, since they are still alive.

    After the judgment, supporters of the two parties brought out their party flags and broke into celebration. Traditional dancers from Otukpo were on hand for the Senate President, while another set from the Tarka Local Government played drums and accompanied the petitioner out of the venue.

    Over 300 policemen, supported by an Armoured Personnel Carrier, provided security and a buffer zone between the jubilating supporters of the two politicians.

    Meanwhile, the Benue State Police Command is investigating Abubakar and five INEC staff over the alleged forgeries carried out on the election result forms, which the petitioner tendered.

    The Police Command, on Friday evening, interrogated Abubakar, nicknamed, ‘Young Alhaji,’ regarding his role in alleged the forgeries, which the tribunal considered during its judgment.

     

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    Tribunal Nullifies Senate President David Mark’s  Election  

    NAN – 23.02.2008
     

    The election petition tribunal sitting in Makurdi,  Benue State, today (Saturday) nullified the election
    of Senate President David Mark.

     Delivering a three-hour judgment, Justice C.I.  Oriri declared that the results for Agagu and
     Okpokwu local  government areas of Benue, which were  earlier cancelled by the returning officer, had
     disenfranchised 139, 466 voters from electing their   representative.

     The tribunal said the results from seven other  local government areas were not enough to produce a
     representative.

     It, therefore, ordered the Independent Electoral  Commission (INEC) to conduct fresh and credible
     elections in Agagu and Okpokwu local government  areas within  60 days of the judgment.

     The tribunal, also upheld the results of the seven other local governments with Usman Abubakar of the
     ANPP scoring 172,636 against the 98,029 votes scored  by David Mark of the PDP.

     The results from the two local government areas where elections would be conducted should be added
     to the results of the seven to determine the winner, the tribunal ordered.

     The tribunal also held that the Returning Officer  had a constitutional right to cancel the elections
     in the two affected local government areas as he  did, but could not recall the said cancelled votes
     in Makurdi.

     Correspondents of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) report that the petitioner, Abubakar, was present at
     the tribunal to hear the verdict.

     The tribunal had earlier nullified the elections  of two other senators of Benue, former Governor
     George Akume and Joseph Akhagerger.

     

     

     

    THE SUN

    Tribunal nullifies David Mark’s election

    By ROSE EJEMBI, Makurdi
    Sunday, February 24, 2008

    The Benue State Elections Petition tribunal Saturday laid to rest weeks of speculations as it voided the election of Senator David Mark, who is also the Senate President.

    Accordingly, the tribunal has ordered Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct fresh and credible elections in the two local government areas under contention, (Agatu and Okpokwu) within 60 days from the day of judgment.

    The tribunal, however, upheld the election results from the remaining seven local government areas in the zone which would be added to the results of the fresh election in Agatu and Okpokwu local governments.

    The All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) contender, Alhaji Usman Abubakar, had headed for the tribunal soon after the election to challenge the return of the senate president on the grounds that he (Abubakar) scored the majority of the lawful votes cast in seven of the nine LGAs of the district, maintaining that the results from Agatu and Okpokwu LGA were cancelled and that the alleged malpractices and intimidation of voters in the two LGAs was enough to vitiate the outcome of exercise.

    Alhaji Abubakar argued that having secured 188,634 votes as against the PDP’s 188,374 votes cast in seven LGAs of the senatorial zone he ought to have been declared winner of that election by INEC.

    Delivering judgement on the case, Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice C I Uriri noted that there were glaring irregularities in the election results of the two contentious Local Government areas, as there were irregular tickings of voters’ registers, adding that there were fraudulent tampering of exhibits as alleged by the first respondent but wondered who stood to benefit from that action hence, he relegated it to the background.

    In his three hour, ten minutes judgement, Justice Uriri noted that after seeing clearly the scores as announced by the Returning Officer in Okpowku and reported by the Senior Police Officers among other evidents in respect of the seven local government areas as follows; ANPP- 172,029 votes, PDP- 98,290 votes, all other changes made, and or additions by the Returning Officers in Makurdi were of no consequence.

    Uriri stressed that the seven Local Governments whose results were announced at the collation centre and later withheld had 417,044 voters while the two local governments of Agatu and Okpokwu had a total of 139,446 registered voters namely 28% of registered voters for the entire senatorial district.

    The Judge explained that the seven local governments whose results were announced at the collation centre which were withheld had 417,044 voters while the two local government of Agatu and Okpokwu had a total of 139,446 registered voters namely 28% of registered voters for the entire senatorial district.

    While stating that the total of 324,978 votes were cast in the seven local governments not in dispute, and 102,076 votes were cast from the two local government representing 25.7% of the total votes cast at the election, the judge explained that the respondents did not deny the above figures in their response.

    “We therefore assess the above figures as corrupt regarding the number of registered voters, total votes cast, percentage, etc,” noting that the issue of whether the results in the seven local government areas are substantially not enough to declare a winner. He posited that they were of the view that the disenfranchising of 139,416, namely 22.8% of the total voters in the district while the two local governments’ results were canceled could be in the overall interest of justice and democracy.

     

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