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The All Progressives Congress (APC) 2023 Senatorial Candidate for Benue South, Comrade Daniel Onjeh, yesterday filed an appeal at the Appeal Court, Makurdi, seeking to nullify the judgment of the National and State Assembly Elections Petition Tribunal, which affirmed the victory of Sen. Patrick Abba Moro of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) at the 25th February, 2023 Senatorial Election in Benue Zone C Senatorial District (also known as Benue South).


A three-member panel of the National and State Houses of Assembly Elections Petition Tribunal Holden in Makurdi, Benue State, led by Hon. Justice ORY Zik-Ikeoha, had on 10th September, 2023, dismissed Onjeh’s petition with Petition No: EPT/BN/SEN/05/2023, challenging the outcome of the Benue South 2023 Senatorial Election in which INEC declared Sen. Moro winner, and Com. Onjeh the 1st runner-up. The petition had Onjeh and the APC as petitioners, and Sen. Abba Moro, the PDP and INEC as respondents.

In their ruling, the three-member panel of the Tribunal held that the petitioners failed to prove in their petition, allegations of non-qualification and not being duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the election against Sen. Moro, as well as allegations of non-compliance with the Electoral Act, 2022, in the conduct of the 25th February, 2023 Senatorial Election in Benue State against INEC.

But Onjeh, in a swift response, took to his social media channels including Facebook, to announce that, “IT’S NOT OVER YET,” as his lawyers were studying the judgment of the Tribunal and would advice on his next course of action. Subsequently, he filed a four-ground Notice of Appeal yesterday at the Court of Appeal, Makurdi Judicial Division, challenging the entire decisions of the Tribunal.

The former President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and former Chairman, Governing Board of the Projects Development Institute (PRODA), Enugu, through his team of lawyers led by Mr. Adetunji Oso, argued that the Elections Petitions Tribunal’s ruling on his petition occasioned a grave miscarriage of justice, by upholding Sen. Moro’s victory at the 25th February, 2023 polls. Onjeh is consequently asking the Appeal Court to set aside the declaration and return of the 1st Respondent, and declare him as the person that scored lawful majority votes cast in the election.

Onjeh is further asking the Appeal Court to set aside the declaration and return of the 1st Respondent on the ground that he did not score majority lawful votes because the votes credited to the 1st Respondent were wasted in law, hence declare him as the winner of the election of the Benue South Senatorial District held on 25th February, 2023; or alternatively, to set aside and annul the election on the ground that the election was invalid by reasons of non compliance and irregularities, and order a re-run election in the Benue South Senatorial District.

In the seven-page document dated 18th September, 2023 filed at the Court of Appeal, Makurdi, Onjeh’s lead counsel, Mr. Oso, argued that the National and State Assembly Elections Petition Tribunal holding in Makurdi erred in law in holding that the 1st Respondent, Sen. Moro, was eminently qualified to have participated in the election of 25th February, 2023; and that the argument by the Petitioners that the 1st Respondent, by supplying his place of birth as reflecting two (2) separate autonomous communities, was certainly NOT a ground to disqualify the 1st Respondent.

Mr. Oso argued that the Petitioners/Appellants’ case before the Tribunal was on presentation of forged certificates to INEC, adding that whereas the Petitioners/Appellants produced in evidence two certificates showing that one was a forgery of the other, the 1st Respondent did not give evidence or explain the forgery. Mr. Oso therefore contended that presentation of forged certificates to INEC is a disqualifying factor for anybody contesting for election created by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) including the election into the Senate, which the 1st Respondent contested for.

On another ground of appeal, Mr. Oso informed the upper court that the learned trial Judges of the Tribunal misdirected themselves when they held that, “…the Law requires the petitioners to plead the arithmetical figures contained in the result sheet, specifying the Polling Units and Wards in which the alleged errors occurred. It was our observation, upon going through the pleadings contained in the Petition that the Petitioners failed in this duty.”

On the particulars of misdirection, he contended that the Petitioners/Appellants indeed pleaded the Polling Units, Wards and Local Governments where the irregularities and non compliance occurred during the election into the Benue South Senatorial District held on 25th February, 2023. He added that the Petitioners/Appellants pleaded arithmetical figures contained in the result sheets as recorded for each candidate and also tendered the result sheets; and that the Petitioners/Appellants again pleaded arithmetical figures showing the invalid votes, the effect of invalid votes on the overall results declared by INEC for each candidate and how the 1st Petitioner/Appellant scored majority of lawful votes.

Further in his appeal, Com. Onjeh held that the learned Trial Judges of the Tribunal erred in law by holding thus, “…It was my observation that the quality of witnesses fielded by the Petitioners fell far below expectation in terms of their adducing credible and convincing evidence to relate or tie all the numerous documents tendered before this Tribunal…”

Onjeh argued that the Petitioners/Appellants’ witnesses were called to and indeed demonstrated the irregularities and non compliance that occurred in the pleaded Polling Units in the Petition, adding that apart from the oral testimony of the Petitioners/Appellants’ witnesses, the documentary evidence before the Tribunal as per the Petitioners/Appellants exhibits manifestly disclosed the irregularities and non compliance pleaded and complained of in the Petition.

He informed the Court of Appeal that the Petitioners/Appellants’ documentary evidence showing manifest, irregularities and non compliance were specifically pleaded in relation to specific Polling Unit and admitted without objection as found by the Tribunal, and that the Tribunal did not evaluate the Petitioners/Appellants’ documentary evidence which the Tribunal found to be duly Certified True Copies in relation to Section 137 of the Electoral Act and relevant provision to First Schedule to the Electoral Act.

On the fourth ground of Onjeh’s appeal, he held that the learned trial Tribunal erred in law in holding that, “… the totality of the evidence adduced by the Petitioners is weak, porous and lacking in substance; and cannot sustain the reliefs sought by the Petitioners; may not even in the alternative of ordering for a fresh election. He argued that the 1st Respondent admitted the unexplained unlawful alterations, mutilation and cancelations that occurred in the Polling Units pleaded were/are apparent and manifest on the face of the documentary evidence before the Tribunal without challenge. He added that The Petitioners/Appellants did not tender any of their exhibits from the bar as found by the Tribunal.

Onjeh also contended that all the Petitioners’/Appellants’ witnesses identified the exhibits tendered by the Petitioners/Appellants, linked the exhibits to the non compliance and irregularities pleaded and were duly cross examined.

He further argued that the same Tribunal had in another similar Petition before it, held that Section 137 of the Electoral Act, 2022 applies in favour of a Petitioner where the non-compliance and irregularities are manifest and obvious, but did not make any findings in his Petition as to whether the Petitioners/Appellants documentary evidence discloses manifest non-compliance and irregularities.

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