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Imminent changes in 10th Senate as courts rule on petition

As always the case in every session of the Senate from the 5th Senate in 2003 to the 9th Senate in 2019, slight changes in membership of  the 10th Senate is about to occur through pronouncements to that effect by Election Petitions Tribunals. TAIYE ODEWALE reports .

 The  Senate 

Within the context of parliament cum participatory democracy, the Senate on the template of bi – cameral legislature being run by Nigeria at the federal level, is the red chamber with equal representation of three Senators  from the 36 states of the federation and one from the federal capital territory (FCT, Abuja), making total membership of 109 Senators , at every session of the National Assembly and as  provided for, by relevant provisions of the 1999 constitution.

In line with multi – party democracy being practised in Nigeria, membership composition of the Senate along with that of the House of Representatives , is based on victories secured to that effect by candidates of political parties who ran for the election.

Specifically for the 10th Senate, inaugurated on Tuesday, 13th June, 2023, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), has 59 Senators, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has 36 Senators, the Labour Party (LP),  Eight Senators, New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) two Senators, Social Democratic Party (SDP) two Senators, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) one and Young Progressives Party (YPP) one Senator.

Imminent changes in membership.composition 

As it was with previous Senates, from the 5th to the 9th National Assembly, slight changes in membership composition of the 10th Senate on the basis of victories secured by candidates of the seven political parties earlier listed, is about to happen .

Such changes as witnessed in the 5th , 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th Senate, arose from outcome of litigations slammed on some winners declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Outcomes of such litigations which on the basis of provisions of 2002 Electoral Act, stretches beyond swearing in , of declared winners by INEC into offices , are already giving signals that some of the serving senators may lose their seats to rivals from other political parties.

Serving Senators threatened by judicial pronouncements 

Some of the serving senators whose mandates are being threatened by rulings from Election Petitions Tribunals are Emmanuel Udende  (APC Benue North East), Abubakar Ohere (APC  Kogi Central), Joel – Onowakpo Thomas (APC Delta South), Jibrin Isah (APC Kogi East) etc .

For Senator Emmanuel Udende, judgement against his mandate came from National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal in Markudi, capital of Benue state last week.

The tribunal in its judgement, outrightly sacked Senator Udende by declaring Senator Gabriel Suswam of PDP who contested against him in the February 25, 2023 election as winner.

The Chairman of the three – man tribunal, Justice Ory Zik-Ikeorha and another member in their judgement in favour of Suswam, said he proved his petitions  beyond reasonable doubt on  irregularities that characterized the election which brought Udende into the Senate.

Expectedly, Senator Udende in his reaction to the judgement, said he would approach the Appeal Court to upturn it just as his counsel, Innocent Daagba, said: “we are not satisfied with the decision and will advice my client to appeal.”

Similar scenario of outright quashing of mandate by Election Petitions Tribunal ,  played out against Senator Abubakar Ohere (Kogi Central) in Lokoja last week.

The Tribunal Chairman, Justice K. A. Orjiako who read the unanimous judgment of the 3-man panel, said Ohere results were inflated in 9 polling units of Ajaokuta LGA while that of Natasha was intentionally reduced in the same 9 polling units by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Ward Collation officers.

He also stated that 3 other polling units results was deliberately not entered for Natasha in the same LGA.

The tribunal added that results of   Natasha  Akpoti – Uduaghan  of PDP  in the 9 polling units of Ajaokuta LGA was 1073 as against the 77 that was recorded by the Ward Collation officers while that of the APC candidate, Abubakar Ohere was inflated to 1553 against the actual figure of 1031.

It also ruled  that the petitioners 996 votes in polling units 009, 046 and O49 polling units of Ganaja village of Ajaokuta LGA was deliberately not recorded at the Ward Collation centre just as it held that it is not the duty of Collation officers to reject results submitted by presiding officers from polling units in election that followed the electoral guidelines substantially.

“The issues raised by the petitioner is hereby resolved in favour of the petitioner and after making the proper correction, Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan (PDP) having polled 54,074 against Abubakar Ohere (APC) who polled 51,291 is hereby declared the authentic winner of the February 25, 2023 election held for Kogi Central senatorial seat ” , declared the tribunal.

But in a swift reaction, Senator Ohere , kicked against the judgement by  describing it as unacceptable.

He posited that facts of the law were not properly followed by the three – man tribunal and would be appealed .

“This judgement, to me, is unacceptable . I will appeal it and reclaim my mandate “, he said.

Wind of quashing of electoral mandate of some serving Senators by Election Petitions Tribunals, also blew in the direction of Senator  Joel Onowakpo Thomas (Delta South), in Asaba last week.

However, Senator Onowakpo’s mandate was not outrightly quashed as the tribunal ordered for supplementary election in only Warri South Local Government in the Senatorial District .

The Justice Catherine Ogunsola-led tribunal order was sequel to a petition by Michael Diden of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with number EPT/DT/SEN/01/2023, against the declaration of Onowakpo of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as winner of the election by INEC.

Similar order on  re – run election with attendant quashing of mandate , was also issued against Senator Jibrin Isah  popularity known as Echocho (Kogi East), last week in Lokoja by election tribunal.

The tribunal  chaired by Justice K . A Orjiako in its ruling,  ordered the rerun election between Senator Jibrin Isah of APC and Victor Adoji of PDP in 94 polling units within the Senatorial District  with over 59,730 votes.

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