Prior to the July 28 reconvened sitting of the Senate, the National and State House of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Makurdi, the Benue State capital would commence hearing in a petition by the All Progressives Congress, APC’s Daniel Onje challenging the return of former President of Senate David Mark as winner of the 27th March, 2015 Senate election for Benue South West Senatorial District.
The petitioner has approached the tribunal to void the return of Mark for alleged irregularities in the exercise and a declaration that he, Onje scored majority of the lawful votes cast at the poll and be declared winner.
But the second respondent (PDP), both parties according to chairman of the panel, Hon Justice Mosumola Dipeolu have distilled similar issues for determination during the pre-trial section of the petition.
Issues raised included the determination of whether or not Mark was elected by majority of the lawful votes cast at the polls; whether or not the election was characterized by irregularities and finally, the determination of whether or not the petitioner has proved his case to be entitled to the reliefs sought.
Mark’s lawyer, Kenneth Ikone was granted 25 minutes to cross examine the petitioner and the expert witness to be called by the petitioner while Oso Adetunji who is appearing for Onje agreed that he would make use of similar time frame to cross examine the respondents’ witnesses.
Meanwhile, the petitioner says he has concluded inspection of election materials and is ready to tender before the tribunal for justice to be served and is confident that he has a “very strong case.”
Reacting to the issue of out of court settlement and threat to life, which has been making the rounds in Benue, Onje said: “Certainly, there is pressure on me to compromise. But as you know it is the case with me, I don’t give up on any course I am pursuing. And to say that I should compromise in this matter is to betray the mandate of my people.
“With the overwhelming support I enjoyed at the poll, it is incumbent on me to press on. May I add that, people who enjoy the status quo would want to use all available means to hang on. I think, with somebody like me with the background of student unionism, I am prepared for the challenge.
“In the dark days of military era, we fought to a stand still. Threats give me the strength to hang on and we are going to fight and ready to reclaim our mandate because we have a good case.”
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