S’Court okays SDP’s request to inspect Kogi governorship election materials

Alhaji Murtala Ajaka

The Supreme Court has okayed the request of Alhaji Yakubu Murtala Ajaka and his party, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), to inspect Kogi governorship election materials.

The Court of Appeal had earlier set aside the inspection exercise carried out by Ajaka and the SDP, pursuant to the orders of the tribunal hearing the petition challenging the election and return of Usman Ododo as the winner of the Kogi State governorship election held on November 11, 2023.

However, the Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, held that the application filed by Ododo and his political party, which led to the tribunal’s decision that was appealed to the Court of Appeal, was incompetent as it was filed outside the timeline set by the law.

Delivering the lead judgment, Justice Agim of the Supreme Court further held that the orders of inspection made by the trial tribunal were within the scope of Section 146 of the Electoral Act, 2022, and that the tribunal acted within its powers and jurisdiction in issuing the orders.

In his contribution, Justice Okoro, who presided over the case, stated that Ododo and his party were served with the court orders but deliberately chose to stay away from the inspection exercise, thereby inflicting self-injuries on themselves. The cross-appeal filed by Ododo was subsequently dismissed.

The Appellants, Alhaji Yakubu Murtala Ajaka and the SDP, were represented by a team of senior lawyers, including P. A. Akubo, Chief J.S. Okutepa SAN, and Chief A.A. Malik SAN.

The Tribunal on November 25, 2023, granted an ex parte order, allowing the SDP and its governorship candidate in Kogi for the 2023 election, Murtala Ajaka to carry out a forensic examination of all the Bimodal Voters Accreditation system (BVAS) used in the election, among other reliefs.

But on Friday, March 1, 2024, a three-man panel of justices of the Court of Appeal, led by Justice J.O.K. Oyewole, in its ruling, set aside the inspection order.

The panel, which had Justices A. I. Banjoko and A.B. Mohammed as its other members, noted that the scope of the inspection order must stay within the limit allowed under the Electoral Act.

The Court of Appeal noted that though inspection is allowed under the Act, it must be jointly carried out with the respondent.

The Appellate Court had held that the ex parte order made by the Tribunal on November 25, 2023, at the instance of the 1st and 2nd Respondents “are within the jurisdictional competence of the said Tribunal”.

“However, paragraphs ‘G’, ‘K’ and ‘N’ thereof are beyond the scope of Section 146 (1) of the Electoral Act 2022. The said paragraphs ‘G’, ‘K’ and ‘N’ are hereby expunged,” the Court of Appeal ruled.

It added that the inspection purportedly done pursuant to the said Orders of the Tribunal without the presence of the Appellant “violates paragraph ‘H’ of the said orders and it is hereby set aside”.

However, on Thursday, March 7, 2024, the Supreme Court stayed the execution of the orders of the Court of Appeal made on March 1, 2024, regarding the inspection and paragraphs ‘G’, ‘K’ and ‘N’.

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