Fresh troubles have sprung up for the embattled Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki as his election as the senator representing Kwara Central Senatorial District is being challenged at the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital.
According to reports, the election results which declared him winner during the 2015 General Elections might have been forged by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), according to INEC’s own election papers tendered at the tribunal.
It was gathered that the two documents, admitted in evidence as “Exhibit D1” and “Exhibit D2” by the Justice Joshua Majebi-led election tribunal, were tendered by Alhaji Ladi Hassan.
The documents submitted to the tribunal alleges that Saraki declared himself winner on the 28th of March, when counting of ballots was yet to be concluded, contrary to electoral guidelines.
A long-standing ally, Alhaji Hassan was once the Chief of Staff to the then Governor Saraki, and represented him and the All Progressives Congress (APC) as Party Agent during the 28th March 2015 election.
Alhaji Hassan was ironically the only witness called by the APC as Second Respondent to testify in Saraki’s favour, who himself neither appeared nor called any other witness in his defence.
Alhaji Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), who was declared the runner-up to Dr Saraki, sued the latter as well as the APC and the INEC at the election Tribunal, claiming that the purported declaration of Dr Saraki as the validly elected Senator for Kwara Central Senatorial District was massively flawed.
The Petition was mainly anchored on six grounds involving alleged widespread non-compliance with various provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended), and INEC’s election regulations and procedures, insisting that the Petitioner rather than Saraki scored majority of the lawful votes cast at the election. Alhaji Abdulrazaq claims in particular that there were widespread abuses in relation to the electronic card reader for accreditation to the advantage of Dr Saraki, and that Saraki’s purported victory was the “product of deliberate wrong entries (of votes) made by” INEC’s election workers.
He, therefore, urged the Tribunal to annul Saraki’s alleged victory, and declare him as the genuine winner instead; or, in the alternative, to annul the election altogether and order a fresh poll.
Dr Saraki, on his part, not only challenged Alhaji Abdulrasaq’s various claims of election irregularities as unfounded, but also vigorously urged the Tribunal “to strike out the Petition for being incompetent … in its entirety”, having allegedly been “filed in flagrant violation of the applicable provisions of the Federal High Court Rules and the mandatory provisions of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) — ie, “Rules of Procedure for Election Petitions”, among other grounds.
At trial, which began on 22nd July, Alhaji Abdulrasaq, the Petitioner, testified for himself and called three other witnesses, including Mr Tunde Salako, the Head of INEC’s Legal Unit in Kwara State; and Mrs Nkolly Obumse, a Lagos-based forensic analyst, who provided a 4-volume analysis of voting materials and results polling unit-by-polling unit.
Mrs Obumse testified that the accreditation process was flawed, with the electronic card readers massively by-passed; and that there was also widespread over-voting as well as wrong entries of voting scores in favour of Dr Saraki. It was the testimony of Alhaji Hassan; the only witness called by the APC and the Respondents side, that was to throw up a knotty and awkward problem, however.
Though he testified that the election was hitch-free, the election results Alhaji Hassan tendered (Exhibit D1 and Exhibit D2) gave rise to a triple problem, which became apparent only after Justice Majebi raised it suo moto at the close of hearing and called on the parties to advice the Tribunal in their submissions.