The National/State Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Makurdi, Benue State, has nullified the election of Chris Adaji of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner of the 2019 Ohimini State Constituency election.
Newsmen report that Adaji is the incumbent Deputy Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly.
Chairman of the Tribunal Justice R. O. Odudu, who delivered the lead judgment, held that the margin with which Adaji led Musa Alechenu Ohimini of All Progressives Congress (APC) is less than the number of votes cancelled.
According to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declaration, Adaji led with 397 votes and the Tribunal finds the margin is less than the 1, 056 votes cancelled in the two polling units of Igbanomaje and Odega.
According to the decision of the court, INEC ought not to have made final declaration without ordering for a rerun in the affected polling units other than declare an inconclusive poll.
Justice Odudu held that the declaration and return of Adaji without a rerun in Otega and Ogadagba ward is invalid by reason of non-substantial compliance with Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
The court therefore, issued an order for withdrawal of certificate of return issued to Adaji and an order directing INEC to conduct rerun election in the two polling units where elections were cancelled within 90 days.
Vincent Tortsugh, who appeared for the petitioners, described the decision of the Tribunal as “reasonable,” adding that “we didn’t expect anything other than this.”
The APC candidate, Musa Ohimini Alechenu, described the decision as a testimony of the wishes of the people.
He said by the decision, the judiciary has reaffirmed that it remains the hope of the people.
“I want to appreciate the Tribunal for the good job done. Let me appreciate the people of Ohimini for standing behind me during the period of the legal struggle,” Alechenu said while insisting that he will win the rerun ballot.
Adaji’s counsel Ken Ikonne said he will consult his client before taking any further decision.