The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has informed the Election Petition Tribunal that there was no vote buying or other irregularities during the governorship election in Ekiti State on June 18, 2022, as claimed by Segun Oni, a candidate for governor from the Social Democratic Party.

The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Dr. Adeniran Tella, testified yesterday before the Tribunal that the Commission’s staff who observed the election adhered to the rules set forth in the Electoral Act and the Election Guidelines.

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Tella added that the Commission was not aware of any incident of vote buying, as claimed by the Petitioners, and that there was no inflation of figures in any of the units where the election was conducted. Tella was represented by Mr. Temitope Aina, Deputy Director and Head of Operations, Ekiti INEC Office.

While being cross-examined by counsel for the respondents and being called by subpoena to testify at the Tribunal, the INEC chief further confirmed that the total number of votes cast and tallied by the electoral agency at the Ekiti governorship election matched the number of voters accredited.

The witness stated that there was no manual collation or indiscriminate recording at any of the polling places, and that the Bimodal Voters Authentication System (BVAS) machines used to certify voters worked well and flawlessly and were not in any way compromised during the conduct of the Ekiti governorship election.

The All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate for governor Mr. Biodun Oyebanji was proclaimed the winner of the election by INEC. Oni, who lost the governorship race, and his party, the SDP, who are the first and second petitioners in the case, are contesting this decision before the Tribunal.

The Governor-elect Oyebanji is the first respondent in the petition, followed by the APC, Alhaji Mai Mala Buni, INEC, and Mrs. Monisade Afuye, the Deputy Governor-elect (5th).

The Ekiti INEC chief said he didn’t bring the BVAS machine and used and unused ballot papers because they weren’t part of what he was ordered to bring by subpoena. He was cross-examined by counsel for the petitioners. Mr. Owoseni Ajayi also brought before the Tribunal electoral documents and materials needed on giving evidence.

The witness stated that the petitioners’ requests for documents and materials were not fulfilled on time because they failed to pay the required fees, and that as a result, Exhibits A13, A14, A15, and A16 were issued. The witness further explained that INEC was not responsible for the alleged delay because the documents and materials were only made available to the petitioners after they had paid the fees on September 8, 2022.
He also rejected the petitioners’ claims that the materials for the election could not be inspected, saying that the Commission had authorized the inspection.

The witness presented several documents to the Tribunal, including Forms EC8D, EC8E, EC8C for all Local Government Areas, EC8B for all 177 Registration Areas, a list of Local Government Areas and Registration Areas Collation Officers, a letter from the law firm of Owoseni Ajayi and Associates, a Directory of Polling Units, a BVAS Report on Accredited Voters in Ekiti State, and Permanent Voter

The list of elected members of the APC National Working Committee and National Executives, the EC9 and CTCs issued by INEC to Owoseni Ajayi and Associates, the serial numbers of ballot papers released to electoral officers, the list of Ad Hoc Staff deployed for the election, and the list of APC letter on submission of INEC Forms were also included.

The first question the witness was asked was for how long he had been working for the electoral agency, and he responded: thirty (30) years. At this point, the counsel for the petitioners, Ajayi, said that would be all from him in leading the witness in evidence, allowing counsel for the first and fifth respondents to cross-examine the witness.

But after finishing with the witness, Ajayi returned and attempted to present the electoral materials the witness had brought to court, but he was rebuffed by all of the Respondents’ attorneys. Fagbemi pointed out that Ajayi had used all the 20 minutes allotted for him to introduce the witness in court and was kindly granted an additional 7 minutes by the Tribunal, which insisted that the Petitioners’ counsel could not return once the cross-examination had begun.

Fagbemi questioned why Ajayi chose to explore other topics till the time allotted to him had passed rather than focusing on the primary topics of his examination-in-chief. After his time was up, Ajayi said that he would like to offer the materials “in the interest of justice.”

Fagbemi responded, “I suggest that justice is not a one-way flow; it is a three-way traffic: to the defense, the petitioners, and members of the public who are watching,” but he was interrupted by the petitioners and the petitioners’ lawyer. Justice as a concept is unaffected by sentiment. I contend that once his chief examination is complete, he is not permitted to ask any new questions or attempt to tender any documents.

Adedayo Adewumi, the attorney for the second respondent (APC), objected to Ajayi’s application, calling it “odd.” Mr. Shaibu Aruwa (SAN), the attorney for the third respondent (Buni), also objected on the grounds that Ajayi had not provided strong evidence to support his application. The counsel for the fourth respondent, INEC, made the claim that the petitioners couldn’t approve and reprobate while simultaneously opposing the motion.

Ajayi acknowledged that the Respondents’ cross-examination had begun in his response and begged the Tribunal to submit the documents from the Bar, arguing that he should be given the chance.

However, in a brief decision, the Tribunal Chairman, Justice Wilfred Kpochi, dismissed Ajayi’s oral application, stating that because he (Ajayi) had finished his examination-in-chief, the proceeding could not go back and forth.

The Tribunal decided that the case would not be allowed to return to the examination-in-chief stage, stating that the re-examination was the sole window of opportunity and that “if we do otherwise, it will amount to overindulgence and we do not want to be perceived as biased.”

The petitioners’ application through Ajayi, according to the Tribunal, amounts to “proceeding in reverse gear and is accordingly rejected.” The decision made it possible for the witness to be cross-examined by attorneys for other respondents.

Further questioned by Fagbemi during cross-examination, the witness informed the court that Mrs. Afuye, the Deputy Governor-elect, has a school diploma, which is the requirement to be considered for the position.

The witness, who was being questioned by Adewumi during cross-examination, claimed that Oyebanji won the free and fair Ekiti governorship election held by INEC on June 18 whereas the first petitioner (Oni), who lost all local elections, did not.

The witness admitted during Aruwa’s cross-examination that a candidate must win a legitimate primary that was observed by INEC and that it was accurate to say that the APC held a primary election in which Oyebanji won and that the shadow poll was observed by INEC.

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The witness further acknowledged that Oyebanji’s name was submitted to the Commission as the APC candidate for governor as a result of the primary being observed by INEC.

The witness confirmed during Onwugbonu’s cross-examination that he had never been coerced by the Petitioners, the First and Fifth Respondents, or either. He further informed the Tribunal that no INEC officer had ever been coerced by the First and Fifth Respondents, the Petitioners, or either.

The witness additionally testified before the court that he did not hold membership cards for any political parties and that the election’s results accurately reflected the preferences of the electorate.

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