Nigerian Concord Newspaper
The occupants of the Benue State government House in Makurdi have been thrown into a state of fear and confusion over the forgery allegation against the deputy governor of the state, Mr. Sam Ode.
The fears in the camp of Governor Hyacinth Alia became tensed as the Benue State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal today reserved judgement in the case between the governor and the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, Mr. Titus Uba.
Sources at the Government House in Makurdi told this newspaper that the most fearful part for the camp of the governor is their inability to defend the forgery allegation made against Mr. Samuel Ode.
At the Tribunal sitting today, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its governorship candidate in Benue State, Rt Hon Titus Uba, urged the governorship elections tribunal in the state to nullify the declaration of Hyacinth Alia and Samuel Ode as governor and deputy governor of Benue State.
The petitioners stated this through their counsel, Efut Okon, SAN, while adopting their final written address in their petition challenging the declaration of Hyacinth Alia as the winner of the March 18, 2023 governorship election in Benue State.
The PDP and Uba in the petition marked EPT/BN/GOV/01/2023 alleged that governor Alia and his deputy, Samuel Ode were at the time of the election, not qualified to contest the election as their sponsorship was invalid having been done 44 days to the date of the election, which is less than the mandatory period of 180 days required by law for political parties to submit the names of their candidates, and that the deputy governor Samuel Ode, presented a forged certificate to INEC in his form EC-9.
Counsels to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Ishiaku Dikko, SAN, counsel to Governor Alia, S.I Ameh, SAN, counsel to Samuel Ode, Mamman Mike Osuman, SAN, and that of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Mathew Burkaa, SAN, all urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition for lacking in merit.
Okon, SAN, while adopting the petitioners’ final written address submitted that the case of the petitioners was not that the deputy governor of the state Ode submitted false information to INEC, but that he presented a forged certificate to the electoral commission, and the issuing authority, the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, had issued a disclaimer to that effect and even sent two of its staff who came and testified at the tribunal, disclaiming the oath form attached to Ode’s Form EC-9.
In the final written address, the petitioners pointed out sixth visible differences between the Form EC-9 of Hyacinth Alia which is marked exhibit 4 and that of his deputy, despite both forms being allegedly sworn and commissioned at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
The PDP and Uba also drew the attention of the tribunal to the purported endorsement for the payment on the deputy governor’s INEC Form EC-9 , which was done on the 25th day of May, 2022.
The petitioners submitted that as at 25th day of May, 2022, when the assessment for payment of the said Form EC-9 was allegedly done, the primary election of the APC to produce the governorship candidate of the 4th respondent had not even been held, as the first gubernatorial primary election of the APC was conducted on the 27h and 28h May, 2022 and the re-run of same was done on the 9th of June, 2022 and further rerun was done on February 3rd, 2023.
The petitioners submitted that it could not be true to say that Ode who was later to emerge as a deputy governorship candidate of Alia only on August 12, 2022, started processing his INEC form EC-9 when the primary election to produce the governorship candidate of the APC had not yet taken place.
They further stated that governor Alia and the deputy Ode, in their respective replies also admitted presenting the Form EC-9 to INEC, and Ode did not bother to go to the tribunal to respond to the case of presentation of a forged certificate made against him and also did not call a witness.
The petitioners submitted that the implication of the abandonment of his pleadings was that the deputy governor had admitted that he presented a forged certificate, contrary to the provisions of Section 182(i)(j) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
The three-member panel led by Justice Ibrahim Karaye adjourned the matter for judgment on a date to be communicated to the parties.