Kogi Central: Appeal Court Sacks APC’s Ohere, Affirms PDP’s Natasha Akpoti

The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja has upheld the sack of Abubakar Ohere of the APC, and re-affirmed Barr. Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan as the duly elected Senator representing Kogi Central Senatorial District.

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC on February 28, declared APC’s Ohere Sadiku Abubakar winner with 52132 votes ahead of the main challenger, Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan (PDP) who scored 51763 votes.

Not satisfied with the development, the PDP candidate alleged the results were manipulated in favour of the APC candidate.

In a March 16 petition filed by Akpoti-Uduaghan & PDP, the Petitioners held that:

“the 1st Petitioner, Natasha Hadiza Akpoti – Uduaghan be declared winner and issued a Certificate of Return as the duly elected candidate at the Kogi Central Senatorial District election, having scored the highest number of lawful votes cast at the election held on the 25th and 26th February 2023, and, satisfied the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and Electoral Act, 2022”.

“The 3rd Respondent (INEC) declared and returned the 1st Respondent (Ohere) winner of the Kogi Central Senatorial District election, and, the Petitioners state that the 1st Respondent was not duly elected and/or duly returned as the winner of the aforesaid election; having not scored the majority of the lawful votes cast at the election.

“The Petitioners state that the ground for presenting the Petition is that:

“i. The 1st Respondent, OHERE SADIKU ABUBAKAR, was not duly elected by majority of the lawful votes cast at the election.

“The Petitioners state that the 1st Petitioner scored the highest number of lawful votes cast at the Kogi Central Senatorial District election and ought to have been declared winner and returned elected by the 3rd Respondent.

“The Petitioners state that the 2nd Respondent was wrongly declared the winner of the said election and its candidate, the 1st Respondent was unduly and wrongfully returned as the Senator-elect for Kogi Central Senatorial District by the 3rd Respondent.”

The tribunal on 6th September, nullified the victory of Senator Ohere of the APC and affirmed Natasha Hadiza as duly elected after scoring majority of lawful votes.

The tribunal Chairman, Justice Kemakolam Anthony Orjiako, who read the unanimous judgment of the three-man panel, said polling results were inflated in 9 polling units of Ajaokuta LGA in favour of Ohere, while the polling results for Akpoti-Uduaghan was intentionally reduced in the same 9 polling units by the INEC ward collation officers.

Orjiako also explained that 3 other polling unit results were deliberately not recorded for Akpoti-Uduaghan in the same LGA.

The tribunal said that Akpoti-Uduaghan polled 1073 votes in the 9 polling units of Ajaokuta LGA against the 77 that was recorded by the ward collation officers, while the figure of the APC candidate, Ohere, was inflated to 1553 against the actual figure of 1031.

“The tribunal is also convinced that the petitioner’s 996 votes in polling units 009, 046 and O49 polling units of Ganaja village of Ajaokuta LGA was deliberately not recorded at the ward collation centre,” it held.

The tribunal averred that [u]it is not the duty of collation officers to reject results submitted by the presiding officers from polling units in an election that followed the electoral guidelines substantially.[u]

“The issues raised by the petitioner is hereby resolved in favour of the petitioners and after making the proper correction, Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan (PDP) having polled 54,074 against Abubakar Ohere (APC), who polled 51,291, is hereby declared the authentic winner.”

The tribunal subsequently ordered INEC to withdraw the certificate of returns issued to Ohere and issue same to Akpoti-Uduaghan.

Justice Orjiako also berated INEC for conniving with officials of the 2nd Respondent (APC) to subvert the will of the people and ordered the 3rd Respondent to N500000 to the 1st Petitioner.

Unsurprisingly aggrieved with the tribunal judgement, Ohere, APC & INEC approached the final Court in these matters, praying the tribunal judgement be set aside and he (Ohere) be so returned.

In consolidated appeals, CA/ABJ/EP/SEN/KG/35/2023 & CA/ABJ/EP/SEN/KG/57/2023, the Appeal Court upheld the decision of the tribunal and affirmed the PDP Candidate as duly-elected.

Akpoti-Uduaghan who hails from Obeiba-Ihima in Okehi LGA is the first female Senator in Kogi State.