The Court of Appeal in Abuja on Tuesday reserved judgment in three separate appeals brought before it by Senator Dino Melaye challenging the decision of the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal, which, last month quashed his election as the Senator Representing Kogi West Senatorial District at the National Assembly.
The three separate appeals were brought by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Dino Melaye, praying the appellate court to set aside the majority decision of the tribunal and restore the victory of Dino Melaye.
Justice Abubakar Datti Yahaya, who presided over the three-member panel of Justices of the Court of Appeal that sat on the appeals announced that the date for the delivery of judgement would be communicated to parties as it is fixed.
PDP, represented by Jubrin Okutepa (SAN) in his final argument prayed the Appeal Court to set aside the majority decision of the tribunal against Melaye on the ground of denial of fair hearing and refusal to evaluate evidence adduced during the hearing of the petition.
The party claimed that the tribunal failed to evaluate the testimonies of its witnesses while no reference was made to all the documentary evidence it supplied before the tribunal came to a wrong conclusion of over voting, even when the petitioner did not tender voter register.
The party, on its platform that Dino contested and won the election, urged the Court of Appeal to invoke section 16 of the Court of Appeal Act and dismiss the appeal for lacking in merit.
In the second appeal filed by INEC, through its lawyer, Kola Olowokere, the Appeal Court was urged to dismiss the allegation of mutilation of election results and favouring a particular candidate as alleged by the petitioner, Senator Smart Adeyemi.
The electoral body argued that finding of over voting by the tribunal was wrong and baseless because the voter register and result of election in 2015 tallied with the result in the disputed area.
The electoral body alleged that the tribunal did not evaluate the exhibits it tendered to prove that there was no over voting and pleaded that appeal be allowed.
In the third appeal filed by Dino Melaye and argued by Dr. Onyeachi Ikpeazu (SAN), the appellate court was urged to set aside the over voting decision of the tribunal because it was based on hearsay instead of polling units agents’ result.
Ikpeazu drew the attention of the Justices to the fact that only three witnesses were called, adding that the evidence of the three witnesses based on hearsay cannot justify the cancellation of the senatorial election.
Melaye’s counsel further submitted that mutilation of result sheet was untenable because the final result of senatorial election was endorsed by agents of the candidates and the parties, and that the petitioners failed to establish that the alleged mutilated result substantially affected the final result collation.
However, Senator Adeyemi and the All Progressives Congress (APC) pleaded with the appellate court to dismiss the tree petitions because the petitioners were not denied fair hearing and that the tribunal based its findings on over voting on the report of INEC which comprehensively contained the number of collected voter cards, unit by unit.
Adeyemi and APC through their counsel, Adekunle Otitoju, argued that INEC bridged an order of the federal high court to the effect that the senatorial election result must be collated and announced in Kabba, the senatorial district headquarters and not in Lokoja, the Kogi state capital as done by the electoral body.
They alleged that while their agents were in Kabba waiting for the collation, the INEC officials and agents of the appellants allegedly colluded and secretly moved the result collation to Lokoja where the result sheets were allegedly mutilated to favour Melaye.
They insisted that mutilation of results, dated February 25 instead of February 23, was so apparent and that over voting was so established that the petitioners won with over 48,000 votes.
They therefore urged the court to dismiss the appeal and uphold the majority decision of the tribunal.