Kayode Fayemi and Olusola Eleka
A Deputy Director with the Independent National Electoral Commission, Sylvester Aigbogun, on Tuesday told the Ekiti Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in the FCT High Court, Apo, that the July 14 governorship election in the state was free and fair.
Aigbogun, who was the Electoral Officer for Ikole Local Government Area of the state during the election, stated this while testifying for the electoral body in the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party and its candidate in the election, Prof. Olusola Kolapo.
The petitioners dragged INEC, the All Progressives Congress and Governor Kayode Fayemi, the winner of the election in contention, as respondents before the tribunal.
The petitioners are challenging the declaration of Fayemi as the winner of the election by the first respondents, INEC.
Aigbogun, while being cross examined by counsel for APC, Yomi Aliyu, SAN, stated that his assertion that the election was free and fair was based on what he saw while visiting some polling units in the local government during the election, as well as what was presented to him from various units and wards.
“The election was free and fair. This was based on what I saw and what was presented to me.
“PDP and its candidate, Prof. Kolapo, did not make any complaint to me on the conduct of the election in my local government.”
While answering question from R. O. Balogun (SAN), counsel for Governor Fayemi, the witness stated that APC won in Ikole LGA without any hitches, with a total of 14,522 votes, as against PDP’s 13,961.
He asserted that the election was conducted substantially in line with the Electoral Act and the manual for the election issued by INEC earlier tendered and admitted as Exhibit RA9.
The witness stated that he did not see any presiding officer or other persons deliberately voiding ballot papers during his visit to some polling units in the course of the election.
Aigbogun told the tribunal, under cross examination by the counsel for the petitioners, Adebayo Adelodun SAN, that entries on Form EC8A had to tally with those on the pink copy issued to agents of parties at polling units.
According to him, wherever an alteration in the entries was not initialed by either the presiding officers or collation officers, there was no way he could know that such was an honest mistake.
Another witness, Akinyemi Shamsudeen, who was the Electoral Officer for Ido-Osi LGA, informed that he did not receive any complaints from the petitioners in his local government on the conduct of the election.
He informed that the ad hoc staff deployed in the election were trained to initial any mistakes made, adding that when they failed to initial such mistakes and there was no complaint from anybody, “I would take it as an honest mistake.”
Akinyemi stated that there was no report from PDP that there was no compliance with procedural steps as contained in Exhibit RA9.
While being cross examined by the petitioners’ counsel, the witness stated that a void ballot could not be caused by deliberate action, declaring that, “I am not familiar with the word ‘voided’ as far as our work is concerned.”
Dada Emmanuel, the Electoral Officer for Ilejemeje LGA, said there was no protests from any agents of parties in the local government, adding that none of the presiding officers who worked under him reported any problems to him.
He also said that there was no complaint from the petitioners about the conduct of the election in Ilejemeje LGA, declaring that Exhibit RA8 tendered by INEC was the true result of the July 14 election from his local government.
Emmanuel, told the tribunal during cross examined by the petitioners’ counsel that void ballot could be as a result of deliberate action, though he said voided ballots were not deliberately done by INEC officials.
Another witness, Kayode Bamidele, the Electoral Officer for Ikere LGA, told the tribunal that there were no irregularities in the election as complained by the petitioners.
He stated that he would be surprised “if anyone says INEC officials deliberately voided ballot papers and thumb printed ballot papers”.
Meanwhile, INEC, through its counsel, Charles Uwensuyi-Edosomwan SAN, tendered in evidence the certified true copy of the certificate of return it issued to Governor Fayemi after the election.
While counsel for the other respondents did not oppose its admissibility, Adelodun said the petitioners had issue with its certification and would address it later.
The document was admitted by the tribunal and marked as Exhibit RA10.
The chairman of the tribunal, Justice Suleiman Belgore, later adjourned to Wednesday at the instance of the first respondent.