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Ekiti Polls: Despite documented evidence, INEC denies vote-buying in governorship election

Ekiti Polls: Despite documented evidence, INEC denies vote-buying in governorship election

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has denied there was vote-buying during the 18th June governorship election in Ekiti State.

The commission testified at the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal on Thursday, in the suit filed by the Social Democratic Party Governorship candidate, Segun Oni.

Mr Oni is contesting the outcome of the election won by the All Progressives Congress candidate, Biodun Oyebanji, alleging gross irregularities and vote buying.

The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Adeniran Tella, who was represented at the tribunal by the Deputy Director and Head of Operations at the Commission’s Ekiti office, Yemitope Aina, said the Commission’s officials, who monitored the election, complied with the provisions of the Electoral Act and Election Guidelines in the conduct of the poll.

Mr Aina noted that the Commission was not aware of any incident of vote buying as alleged by the petitioners and there was no inflation of figures in any of the units where the election was conducted.

Mr Aina, while under cross-examination by counsel to the respondents, further affirmed that the total number of votes cast and collated by the electoral agency at the Ekiti governorship poll corresponded with the number of voters accredited.

The witness said the Bimodal Voters Authentication System (BVAS) Machines used to accredit voters functioned well and perfectly and were not in any way compromised during the conduct of the Ekiti governorship election, adding that there was no manual collation and indiscriminate recording at any of the polling units.

Mr Oyebanji is the first Respondent, while the APC (second), Mai Mala Buni (third), INEC (fourth), and the Deputy Governor-elect, Monisade Afuye (fifth) respectively.

The INEC representative who was cross-examined by counsel to the Petitioners, Owoseni Ajayi, also brought before the tribunal electoral documents and materials as evidence.

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He said he didn’t bring the BVAS Machine and used unused ballot papers because they were not part of what he was directed to bring by the subpoena.

The witness explained that documents and materials requested by the petitioners were not given to them on time because they didn’t pay the prescribed fees. He said the documents and materials were only made available to them after they had paid the fees on 8th September hence the issuance of Exhibits A13, A14, A15, and A16 and so INEC was not liable for the alleged delay.

He also dismissed the allegations of the petitioners that they were not allowed to inspect the electoral materials maintaining that the Commission allowed the inspection of the materials.

Some of the documents brought to the Tribunal by the witness included Forms EC8D, EC8E, and EC8C for all Local Government Areas, EC8B for all the 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, Directory of Polling Units, BVAS Report on Accredited Voters in Ekiti State and Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) collected polling unit-by-polling unit.

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Others were APC letter on submission of INEC Forms, EC9 and Issuance of Certified True Copies (CTCs) of documents to Owoseni Ajayi and Associates by INEC, list of elected members of APC National Working Committee and National Executives, Serial Numbers of Ballot Papers as released to Electoral Officers and the list of Ad Hoc Staff as deployed for the election.

However, there was a mild drama when Mr Ajayi, after concluding his examination of the witness, sought to tender the electoral materials the witness brought to court but he was opposed by all counsels to the respondents on the grounds that he had exhausted all the time he was given to cross-examine the witness.

Despite his pleas, the tribunal chairman, Wilfred Kpochi, ruled that he could only tender the documents during re-examination in order not to be accused of overindulgence.

“The only available window is during re-examination, if we do otherwise, it will amount to overindulgence and we do not want to be seen as biased,” the Chairman said.

The tribunal further held that the application of the petitioners through Mr Ajayi amount to “proceeding on reverse gear and it is hereby refused.” The ruling paved the way for counsel to other Respondents to cross-examine the witness.

The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) in its post-election report, revealed that its field observers documented 41 instances of vote buying and selling at polling units across six Local Government Areas (LGAs) during the governorship election in Ekiti State.

According to the civil society group, the cases were recorded at Ado-Ekiti, Ijero, Ikole Irepodun/Ifelodun, Ise/Orun, and Moba LGAs of Ekiti

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