Delta South: Michael Diden accuse INEC

Candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for Delta South senatorial district, Michael Diden, yesterday, raised the alarm that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is frustrating his efforts to get access to electoral documents to prosecute his case at the National Assembly elections petitions tribunal sitting in Asaba.

Lead counsel to the PDP candidate, Ayo Asala, said the three-member tribunal, headed by Cathrine Ogunsola, said the INEC state office in Asaba referred them to the headquarters in Abuja for the documents.

Asala said members of his legal team have been in Abuja for over one week, adding they were yet to access the documents needed for the trial.

In a petition EPT/DT/SEN/ 01/2023, the PDP and Diden are contesting the return of Joel Onowakpo of All Progressives Congress (APC) as winner of the February 25 Delta South senatorial district election by INEC.

While INEC is the first respondent, Onowakpo and APC are second and third respondents respectively.

Addressing the tribunal at the pre-trial session, Asala said he intend to call 12 witnesses, including subpoena witnesses to prove his client won the election and that the opponent did not score the majority of lawful votes cast for INEC to declare him winner.

Similarly, counsel to Onowakpo, Ifeoluwa Ojediran, and that of the APC, Habeeb Lawal, said they would also call 12 witnesses to defend their clients’ victory while counsel to INEC, Lookman Fagbemi, said the commission would call four witnesses to sustain its declaration.

In the petition, Diden is seeking to be declared winner of the election, insisting that INEC was wrong to have cancelled the results of Warri South Local Government Area before declaring Onowakpo as winner. The petition contends that the number of registered voters and number of collected PVCs in Warri South was enough to alter the margin of lead in the other seven councils, adding that INEC should have either conducted supplementary election or collated the polling units results for 11 out of the 12 wards of Warri South before the final declaration.

Insisting that the election in Warri South was peacefully conducted in accordance with the procedure spelt out in the Electoral Act, 2022, Guidelines and Manuals issued by INEC, the petitioners maintained the action of INEC despite protest from their agents amounted to a breach of the Electoral Act, 2022 and INEC’s regulations and guidelines.

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