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Benue tribunal upholds Ortom’s election victory

The Benue state governorship election petitions tribunal sitting in Makurdi has upheld the election of Governor Samuel Ortom.

Okay.ng understands that the court dismissed the application filed by Emmanuel Jime, for lacking merit.

Jime alleged in his petition that Ortom was not duly elected by the majority of lawful votes cast.

The APC governorship candidate also challenged the results declared in Buruku, Gboko, Guma, Gwer East, Gwer West, Konshisha, Kwande, Logo, Ukum, Ushongo, and Vandeikya.

He, therefore, asked the tribunal to either declare him the winner of the March 2019 governorship election in Benue or nullify Ortom’s election and order the conduct of a fresh election in the state.

During the hearing, the petitioner called 59 witnesses who testified that they witnessed irregularities, over-voting and other electoral malpractices perpetrated by the PDP and INEC during the election.

Jime, while testifying as PW17, urged the tribunal to declare him the winner of the election on grounds that he polled 2,224 votes more than Ortom.

The petitioner also tendered over 1100 electoral documents including forms EC8A, EC8B, EC8C, EC8D, EC8E, voters registers and card reader reports.
He also tendered 2019 manual and guidelines for electoral officials in 384 Polling Units across 11 local government areas in contention.

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However, Ortom, INEC, and PDP asked the tribunal to strike out the petition in its entirety for lacking in merit.

INEC in its final written address told the tribunal that the March 2019 election was conducted in full compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended.

INEC and PDP called no witnesses, while Ortom, who was the second respondent in the suit, called one witness.

Ortom told the tribunal through his counsel, Sebastine Hon (SAN). that the burden of proof rested on the petitioner.

Delivering a nine hours judgment, the Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Henry Olusiyi, faulted the testimonies of the petitioner’s witnesses.

According to him, none of them could substantiate their claims of over-voting and other irregularities alleged.

Olusiyi said the petitioner failed to link the documents tendered in evidence to the petition, adding that they dumped the documents on the tribunal.

He also said until the National Assembly amends the constitution, the voter register remains the only document used to ascertain the number of registered voters and not the smart card readers.

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