Tribunal sacks Akume, Akaagerger
Benue State appears to be on the verge of a major political earthquake, as the election petition tribunal sitting in Makurdi, the state capital, yesterday nullified the elections of immediate ex-governor George Akume and Brig. Joseph Akaagerger (rtd) as senators of the federal republic.
The ruling has now triggered off wide speculations that similar fate may soon befall embattled Senate President David Mark and complete the clean sweep of last April’s senatorial election in the state.
While all eyes seemed to have been on the Benue South senatorial where Young Alhaji is challenging the election of Senate President David Mark, Governorship and Legislative Houses Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Makurdi Friday took the carpet off observes’ feet when it nullified the election of immediate past Benue State Governor, Dr. George Akume, for Benue North-West Senatorial District and Chief Joseph Akaagerger, Senator representing Benue North-East Senatorial district, both of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The tribunal’s verdict was based on the grounds that their elections did not substantially comply with the Electoral Act and that there were massive allocations of votes, as opposed to actual voting.
The tribunal also ordered that fresh elections be conducted in all the 17 local government areas that make up the two senatorial districts within 60 days of delivering the judgments.
Dr. Simon Lim, Action Congress (AC), had filed a petition against the election of Akume for Benue North-West Senatorial District, while Prof. David Iornem, also of the Action Congress, and Mr. Benjamin Ikyanyon of the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), in a joint petition, challenged the election of Senator Joseph Akaagerger.
In his judgment, Justice P.C. Ikpeama said that the tribunal arrived at its decision after examining voters’ registers from five out of the seven local governments that make up the district, as tendered by the petitioner and therefore declared that it discountenanced voters’ registers tendered by INEC on subpoena by the respondents on the grounds that INEC had the privilege of tendering all forms at the registers at the time that the petitioner applied, but chose to withhold other registers for inexplicable reasons.
According to the tribunal, a close examination of voters’ registers tendered by the petitioner reveals that there were irregular tickings on them, with some having one, others two and the remaining had no tickings at all, indicating that no voting took place in such areas.
Also, the tribunal noted that it nullified the election of Akume because the oath of neutrality for INEC staff were administered after the election and that agents of PDP connived with INEC staff to snatch and divert electoral materials, embarking on illegal thumb printing in private homes.
All the defence witnesses who tendered evidence for Akume, the tribunal noted, were unreliable, since they contradicted themselves and did not participate in the elections as polling agents.
Justice Bilkisu Aliyu while delivering judgment on the petition filed by Professor David Iornem (AC) and Mr. Benjamin Ikyanyon (ANPP) against the election of Akaagerger of the PDP, the tribunal nullified the elections on the grounds of irregular tickings of the voters’ registers and the late administration of oaths of neutrality of the electoral officials.
Meanwhile, the tribunal after listening to the counsels of Senator David Mark and Alhaji Abubakar Usman adjourned the case to February 2, for final adoption of addresses.
Meanwhile, an aide of Akume in her reaction to the ruling, said that the ex-governor will definitely challenge the ruling, even as there were reports of jubilation in some parts of the state capital over the annulment of Akume’s election.