Ondo guber poll: Mimiko victorious at S-Court

By The Citizen

The Supreme Court, yesterday, declined to order the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to conduct fresh governorship election in Ondo State.

In their unanimous judgment, a seven-man panel of justices of the apex court, affirmed Governor Olusegun Mimiko of the Labour Party as the bonafide winner of the gubernatorial election held in the state on October 20, 2012.

Following the ruling, Chairman of Nigeria Governor's Forum, NGF, Mr. Chibuike Rotimi Ameachi, congratulated Governor Mimiko on his victory, saying the judiciary had come of age.

The Supreme Court dismissed as lacking in merit, two separate appeals filed before it by Chief Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, of Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, and Chief Olusola Oke of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

*Supreme Court Judgment: Ondo State Governor Olusegun Mimiko jubilating with his Supporters shortly after Supreme Court judgment in his favor in Abuja. Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan.

Whereas the lead judgment in the appeal entered against Mimiko by Akeredolu was delivered by Justice Nwali Sylvester Ngwuta, that of the PDP candidate, Oke, was delivered by Justice Mary Peter Odili.

Both Akeredolu and Oke had, in their substantive appeals, urged the apex court to sack  Mimiko from office on grounds that the Ondo gubernatorial poll was fraught with manifest irregularities and that there was substantial non-compliance to the Electoral Act which, they said, rendered the election invalid.

While urging the court to sack Mimiko from office, Oke and PDP alleged that there was infusion of over 100, 000 ghost names in the voters' register used to conduct the election.

Oke further relied on the case of Agbaso vs Ohakim to argue that the inability of INEC to display the voters' register,  prior to the election as prescribed in section 19 of the Electoral Act, rendered the outcome of the poll invalid, adding that the lower court erred and miscarried justice against him when it held that issues bordering on voters' register was a pre-election matter.

On the other hand, Akeredolu, in his 13 grounds of appeal, urged the apex court to set aside the judgments of both the Election Petition Tribunal that sat in the state and the Court of Appeal, Akure, contending that the lower courts  failed to evaluate the evidence of two of his principal witnesses, PW-34 and PW-35, who, he said, exposed how ballot boxes were stuffed in favour of Governor Mimiko.

He equally prayed the Supreme Court to determine whether the appellate justices, having found that the voters' register did not comply with the Electoral Act, ought not to have nullified the election and whether the lower court was right  to have held that he was unable to prove allegations of malpractice and that the injection of names into the voters' register affected the outcome of the election.

While dismissing the appeals, the Supreme Court held that the allegation of injection of names in the voters' register was not proved by the appellant, noting that allegation of 'compilation or usage of an illegal voters' register for an election is a criminal offence that must be proved beyond every reasonable doubt.

'This allegation was not proved by the appellant, even on the balance of probability,' the court added.

More so, the court maintained that even if it was proved that the votes of the entire alleged 100, 000 ghost voters were added to the appellants', the 1st respondent, Mimiko, would still have won the election, having secured the highest number of validly cast votes.

Describing the evidence of the PW-34 as 'hearsay', the court said it was convinced that the witness was a mercenary ready to render his services for a fee.

'The court has a duty to treat such evidence with the disdain it deserves,' the Supreme Court held.

Other Justices that concurred with the lead judgments yesterday were Justices Walter Onnoghen, Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, Christopher Chukwuma-Eneh, John Afolabi Fabiyi and S.S Alagua.