The Kogi Election Petitions Tribunal on Wednesday declared Natasha Akpoti- Uduaghan of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) winner of the Feb. 25 senatorial election in Kogi Central.
Her declaration as winner by the tribunal followed its nullification of the victory of Sen Abubakar Ohere of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
The Tribunal Chairman, Justice K. A. Orjiako, who read the unanimous judgment of the 3-man panel, said Ohere’s votes were inflated in nine polling units in Ajaokuta Local Government.
“Natasha’s votes were intentionally reduced in the same nine polling units by the INEC Ward Collation officers,” he declared.
“After making the proper corrections, Natasha Akpoti-Uduagan (PDP), having polled 54,074 against Abubakar Ohere’s 51,291, is hereby declared the authentic winner,” he declared.
Orjiako explained further: “During collation of results, three other polling units’ result was deliberately not entered for Natasha in the same Local Government.
“From the evidences before this tribunal, Natasha’s votes in the nine polling units of Ajaokuta were 1073 against the 77 recorded by the ward collation officers, while those scored by Ohere were inflated to 1553 against the actual figure of 1031.
“In view of this, we are convinced that the petitioners’ 996 votes in polling units 009, 046 and O49 polling units of Ganaja village of Ajaokuta were deliberately not recorded at the Ward Collation Centre.
“It is not the duty of collation officers to reject results submitted by Presiding Officers from polling units in an election that followed the electoral guidelines substantially. That officer failed in his duty,” he said.
According to him, all issues raised by the petitioner have been resolved in her.
The chairman ordered the 3rd respondent (INEC) to withdraw the certificate of return issued to Ohere and issue same to Natasha.
The tribunal strongly chided INEC for deliberately going out of its mandate of conducting a free and fair election to conniving with political parties to subvert the will of the people.
Consequently, the tribunal ordered INEC to pay N500,000 as damages to Natasha for ‘subverting justice’ in the Feb. 25 senatorial election.
Speaking shortly after the judgment, Counsel to Akpoti-Uduagan, Johnson Usman, described the judgment as “apt” and “a victory” for democracy.
“This judgement has now validated the true winner of the Kogi Central Senatorial District.
“This is victory for the people of Kogi Central Senatorial District; it is victory for Kogi in general and victory for the election processes,” Usman stated. (NAN)