An election petition tribunal sitting in Benin, Edo State, on Friday affirmed the victory of Godwin Obaseki as the winner of the gubernatorial elections held on September 28, 2016.
Peoples Democratic Party and its candidate in the election, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, had challenged Mr. Obaseki’s victory, alleging widespread irregularities.
Mr. Ize-Iyamu, a Christian preacher, has instructed his lawyers to file an appeal immediately.
Mr. Obaseki, who ran on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, was declared winner of the election by Independent National Electoral Commission.
Mr. Obaseki polled 319,483 votes as against Ize-Iyamu’s 253,173 votes, defeating the PDP candidate with 66,310 votes.
Ahmed Badamosi, who led the three-man tribunal, dismissed Mr. Ize-Iyamu’s petition, saying it lacked merit.
Mr. Badamosi held that the petitioners failed on all fronts to prove their allegations of voter fraud and other corrupt practices that allegedly marred the poll.
“The petitioners have failed to prove their case with credible evidence and it’s therefore dismissed", he said.
The tribunal held that while the petitioners abandoned some of their pleadings, “witnesses evidence was controverted under cross-examination’’.
“The much talked about ticking and over voting by the petitioners have not been specifically proved beyond reasonable doubts.
“And not calling witnesses to prove their allegations of corrupt practices and over voting was fatal to their case and is deemed to have abandoned their pleadings", it found.
“Accordingly, the petition has failed and is hereby dismissed", it held.
Mr. Ize-Iyamu and PDP had listed INEC, Mr. Obaseki and APC as first, second and third respondents, respectively.
He asked the tribunal to nullify the election of Mr. Obaseki and declare him winner, having allegedly scored majority of the lawful votes cast among other reliefs sought.
But Mr. Ize-Iyamu’s lawyers said they had been instructed to file an appeal as soon as possible.
“Our client just said we should proceed and file an appeal to reverse the ruling", Yusuf Ali, a senior advocate of Nigeria and lead counsel to the petitioner, told PREMIUM TIMES by telephone Friday afternoon.
"We’re not going to condemn the conclusion of the tribunal, but we know our appeal is in order.”
Wild celebration broke out amongst supporters of Mr. Obaseki and the APC shortly after the pronouncement.
Amongst those celebrating the victory in Benin was a former governor of the state, Adams Oshiomhole.
“The judgment is sound and a testimony that the people of Edo never voted for People’s Democratic Party (PDP)", Mr. Oshiomhole said while interacting with reporters Friday afternoon.
"The petition was a busy body one to distract the electorate; this was just like ‘Mama Akara’ judgment going to see over a non-issue.’’
The former governor said the judgment showed that there were still men and women of good character in the judiciary.
‘‘This will serve as a deterrent to some people who can say whatever they like about the judiciary.
‘‘But it has shown it (judiciary) has men and women of good character, of courage and knowledge", Mr. Oshiomhole said.