Lawyers and Activists from Kogi State have raised alarm over what they described as a clandestine move by the Social Democratic Party, (SDP) and its governorship candidate to file their petition against the outcome of the November 11 election through the backdoor and backdate same to circumvent the provisions of the Electoral Act.
The lawyers, under the aegis of the United Front for Democracy, raised the alarm at a press conference in Lokoja, on Monday, following the closure of the window allowed for the filing of electoral petition with all allegations and petitions relating to the petition front-loaded, in line with Section 134 of the Electoral Act.
Convener of United Front for Democracy, Yetunde Olubunmi Shaibu, who spoke on behalf of the activists, said they had credible intelligence that the SDP candidate had yet to file his petition against the winner of the election, Usman Ododo of the All Progressives Congress, 22 days after the declaration of results.
The Activists noted that the 21-day window elapsed at midnight of December 3, 2023, saying, “Section 134 of the Electoral Act is very clear as to when an electoral petition can be filed with all allegations and evidence relating to the petition front-loaded. By virtue of Section 134 of the Electoral Act, the SDP has failed to file their petition within the period allowed by Law and should therefore be made not to waste the time of the Honourable Panel.”
They, however, alleged that they had been credibly briefed that the SDP and its candidate were still preparing their petition intending to file the same within the week and have it backdated to make it look like it was filed within the legally stipulated duration.
“This must not be allowed to happen in the spirit of justice, equity and fairness,” the lawyers said.
They, therefore, called on the Election Petition Tribunal for the Kogi State Governorship Poll to “switch on its lights to fish out staff members who have been contracted to mess with the integrity of the highly respected judiciary. We are watching and the world is watching to ensure the right thing is done.”
Shaibu stated, “As a Civil Society Organization, the United Front for Democracy is non-partisan. Our commitment is to protect democratic values and ensure that our judiciary is not slaughtered on the slab of political desperation and corruption.
“Our organisation has credible intelligence that the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) is yet to file his petition against the winner of the election, Alh. Ahmed Usman Ododo, 22 days after the declaration of results.
“The results of the election were declared on Sunday, 12th November, 2023. The 21-day window elapsed at midnight of December 3, 2023. Section 134 of the Electoral Act is very clear as to when an electoral petition can be filed with all allegations and evidence relating to the petition front-loaded. By virtue of Section 134 of the Electoral Act, the SDP has failed to file their petition within the period allowed by Law and should therefore be made not to waste the time of the Honourable Panel.
“The wisdom of the Electoral Act is that anyone with credible evidence should be able to put such forward within the legally stipulated period. We are however disappointed that the SDP is about to lose the opportunity to test the law with a competent petition. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the African Democratic Congress (ADC) opted to avoid the embarrassment of searching in futility for evidence by deciding not to challenge the election at the tribunal.
“Since we would want to leave the determination of the validity of a petition filed out of time to the Honourable Panel to determine, we owe the populace a social and legal responsibility to expose a clandestine move by the SDP and its candidate to file their petition through the backdoor and backdate same to circumvent the provisions of the Electoral Act.”
“As a Civil Society Organization, our wish was to see elections challenged, but in a proper way that satisfies the requirements of administrative, judicial and legal procedures. Anything short of that will lead to a dangerous compromise and will be challenged with incontrovertible facts and evidence,” the lawyers/activists noted.
They also condemned the attack on the residence of the Resident Electoral Commissioner in charge of Kogi State, saying, “It is a dangerous trend that must not be allowed to stand. Those who superintend over our elections must be allowed to do their job without harassment or intimidation.
But in a swift reaction, the Director General, New Media MuriSam Campaign Council for SDP Isaiah Davies Ijele described the civil society as faceless, adding that the allegations of not filing their petition against the outcome of the November 11 election are not true.
Ijele insisted that it was as a result of the filing that the SDP was granted an order to inspect the materials for the election.
The statement reads in part, “We condemn in totality the press conference of an anti-Democratic, anti-progressive, anti-people, anti-truth, bias, directionless cum non-existent group that called itself “United Front For Democracy.
“This group by its name is fraudulent, compromised and against anything that promotes a healthy democratic process.
“This unknown group whose activities overtime is directed by corrupt Politicians and autocrats disguised as Democrats addressed the press in Lokoja lying that our party; the Social Democratic Party (SDP), candidate and legitimate winner of the November 11 election, Alhaji Murtala Yakubu Ajaka did not “file petition against APC within the stipulated 21 days and that the SDP is planning to smuggle in the petition through backdoor in connivance with two of the tribunal members”.
“For the records, the SDP paid for the filling on the 1st Friday and filed on the 2nd Saturday, December 2023. Go and Verify
“We are not surprised that a dubious group like the United Front For Democracy can lie to the press and the world because conniving with enemies of democracy has been their trademark. This unknown group that is financed by looters of public funds lacks the moral right to talk about the SDP.
“This evil assembly of miscreants was quiet when Yahaya Bello; the chief Executive of lawlessness, let hell loose on members of the opposition in Kogi state.
“Where was this group when Prof. Johnson Urama and Professor Sani Muhammed illegally called an election still under dispute despite our outcry of irregularities?
“Where was this group when the state government used the security apparatus of the state to assassinate two police officers and two civilians when they attacked the house of our DG Campaign Sheikh Ibrahim Jibril in Anyigba and held me hostage against my will three days to the election?
“Where was this same paid, inexistent group of hungry and jobless men when Governor Yahaya Bello refused to pay Local government workers and kept paying percentage salaries for almost 8 years? Where were these miscreants when Bello was hunting Murtala Ajaka?
“They never spoke against the evil administration of their patron Yahaya Bello all these years. Sadly, today they are making mockery of themselves in public. Today, they confirmed that they are a propaganda group loyal to the highest bidder.
“We are calling on the public to disregard their position as it is untrue. This group is too evil to speak about democracy as there is no record of them defending democracy and the downtrodden anywhere”.