By Ishaq Dan-Imam, Lokoja
Lawyers, under the aegis of the United Front for Democracy based in Kogi state have raised the alarm over what they described as a clandestine move by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and its governorship candidate to file their petition against the outcome of the November 11 election through the backdoor and backdate same to circumvent the provisions of the Electoral Act.
They raised the alarm following the closure of the window that allowed for the filing of electoral petitions in line with Section 134 of the Electoral Act.
Addressing newsmen at a press conference held in Lokoja on Monday, the convener of the group, Barrister Yetunde Olubunmi Shaibu, said they had credible information that the SDP candidate had not filed his petition against the winner of the election, Usman Ododo of the All Progressives Congress (APC), 22 days after the declaration of results.
She noted that the 21-day window elapsed at midnight of December 3, 2023, saying, “Section 134 of the Electoral Act is very clear as to when an electoral petition can be filed with all allegations and evidence relating to the petition front-loaded.
“By Section 134 of the Electoral Act, the SDP has failed to file their petition within the period allowed by Law and should therefore be made not to waste the time of the Honourable Panel.”
The group also alleged that they had been credibly briefed that the SDP and its candidate were still preparing their petition intending to file the same within the week and have it backdated to make it look like it was filed within the legally stipulated duration.
According to her “This must not be allowed to happen in the spirit of justice, equity and fairness. We are therefore calling on the Election Petition Tribunal for the Kogi State Governorship Election to “switch on its lights to fish out staff members who have been contracted to mess up with the integrity of our highly respected judiciary. We are watching and the world is watching to ensure the right thing is done.”
Barr. Olubunmi Shaibu further stated “As a Civil Society Organization, the United Front for Democracy is non-partisan, saying their commitment is to protect democratic values and ensure that the nation’s judiciary is not slaughtered on the slab of political desperation and corruption.
“Our organization has credible intelligence that the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) is yet to file his petition against the winner of the election, Alh. Ahmed Usman Ododo, 22 days after the declaration of results.
“The results of the election were declared on Sunday, 12th November, 2023. The 21-day window elapsed at the midnight of December 3, 2023. Section 134 of the Electoral Act is very clear as to when an electoral petition can be filed with all allegations and evidence relating to the petition front-loaded.
“By Section 134 of the Electoral Act, the SDP has failed to file their petition within the period allowed by Law and should therefore be made not to waste the time of the Honourable Panel.
“The wisdom of the Electoral Act is that anyone with credible evidence should be able to put such forward within the legally stipulated period. We are however disappointed that the SDP is about to lose the opportunity to test the law with a competent petition. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the African Democratic Congress (ADC) opted to avoid the embarrassment of searching in futility for evidence by deciding not to challenge the election at the tribunal.
“In as much as we would want to leave the determination of the validity of a petition filed out of time to the Honourable Panel to determine, we owe the populace a social and legal responsibility to expose a clandestine move by the SDP, and its candidate to file their petition through the backdoor and backdate same to circumvent the provisions of the Electoral Act.”
“As a Civil Society Organization, our wish was to see elections challenged, but in a proper way that satisfies the requirements of administrative, judicial, and legal procedures. Anything short of that will lead to a dangerous compromise and will be challenged with incontrovertible facts and evidence,” the lawyers/activists noted.
They also condemned the attack on the residence of the Resident Electoral Commissioner in charge of Kogi State, saying, “It is a dangerous trend that must not be allowed to stand. Those who superintend over our elections must be allowed to do their job without harassment or intimidation.
“Democracy must be protected by all as it remains the best form of Government to guarantee freedom and prosperity.”
But in a reaction, the spokesman of the SDP Governorship campaign council, Mr Faruk Adejoh-Audu, has dismissed the claim by the group as he described the claim as baseless as the state governorship election petition tribunal had granted the ex-parte motion filed by the SDP Candidate to allow his lawyers inspect the election materials