Benue Guber Appeal: APC, Buhari’s aides shop for compromised Panel judges to upturn Ortom’s victory

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By Olatoke Gideon, Abuja (Nigerian Concord)

Facts have emerged on how Chieftains of the Benue state chapter of the APC and Senator Abba Kyari, chief of staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, are shopping for compromised judges to be appointed on the Appeal Panel that will hear and rule on the case between Emmanuel Jime of the party and Governor Samuel Ortom of the PDP.

According to sources within the Presidency in Abuja, power brokers in the APC both in Benue and Abuja have been pressing that judges that can be bought over are appointed to rule on the appeal which Emmanuel Jime had filed to counter the October 7 Tribunal ruling which upheld the victory of Samuel Ortom.

This new revelation is coming barely a week after a national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, facilitated the release of N1 Billion from the purse of the Babajide Sanwo-Olu-led Lagos state government to the Benue state chapter of the party with the aim to use same to bribe the judges that will be presiding over the appeal.

Nigerian Concord learnt that leaders of the party have been thrown into confusion ever since Jime’s Defence Team led by Yusuf Ali SAN had made it known to them that it would be very difficult to upturn the ruling of the Tribunal which gave victory to the governor.

According to the APC legal team at the weekend meeting, the party would need to ensure that members of the Appeal Panel are familiar people that can easily be bribed with the N1b which Tinubu had made available prior to the hearing of the case.

It was mentioned at the meeting which was held at the Abuja residence of one of the Benue APC leaders that, opinions of lawyers and other analysts that were sought for had shown that the verdict of the tribunal which upheld Ortom’s victory will be difficult to be reversed by any Appeal Panel.

Speaking at the meeting, Jime’s lead counsel, Barrister Yusuf Ali, made it known that it would be hard for the Defense team which could not successfully prove its case before the Election Tribunal in Makurdi to now convince the Appeal Panel with some of the grounds the petitioners (Jime,APC) based their petition.

According to Alli, there is no way to prove to the Appeal Panel that the 2nd Respondent, Samuel Ioraer Ortom, was not duly elected by lawful votes cast.

He also raised it that it will be hard to prove before an unfriendly Appeal panel that the election of the governor was invalid by reason of non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended.

Alli was very emphatic at the meeting that it will be a difficult task for the Defence team to present Jime’s case before the Appeal panel especially when all his fifty nine witnesses had been rendered invalid by the Election Petition Tribunal.

It would be recalled that the petitioners alleged that there were irregularities in 400 polling units but, when they filed a response to the Governor’s reply to their petition, they increased the number of polling units to 626. But the tribunal deferred ruling on the applications and struck out the additional witness statement filed by the petitioners, which also went with the additional polling units (remember the infamous appearance of Barrister Joe Abaagu), leaving the total of polling units they had earlier complained in their original petition at 400.

Also recall that Jime and APC initially said they were calling 317 polling units, including a subpoena (INEC ICT staff), making it 318 but, at the end of pre-trial, they said they were calling 200 witnesses, but ended up calling only 59 witnesses, with two withdrawn. Out of which 31 were polling units agents, the rest being ward and local government agents, out of whom one was a state collation agent and the other a subpoenaed (INEC ICT staff). None of the 59 witnesses was able to tender reasonable evidence of electoral malpractice against PDP and Governor Ortom.

Also recall that Jime failed to prove even the first three grounds of his petition which centred on alleged irregularities, over-voting and substantial non-compliance. He also failed to prove that he won majority of lawful votes cast and that the said election was marred by corrupt practices.

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