By Gabriel Enogholase
BENIN—EDO State Governorship Election Tribunal sitting in Benin, has ordered the recounting of the ballot papers used in four local government areas of the state in the September 28, 2016 election.
The councils are Akoko-Edo, Egor, Etsako West and Etsako East.
The tribunal’s order was sequel to its overruling of the objection by the respondents’ counsel to the counting of the ballot papers, who had argued that although they were not against the application by the petitioners’ counsel for the recounting of the ballot papers, its mode of presentation before the tribunal ran foul of the Electoral Act.
However, in it’s ruling, the tribunal held that the application to recount the ballot papers started by the petitioners’ application for a subpoena to Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for them to produce the ballot papers, saying, “the application was already made. It was not orally made. It was only the application for counting that was made orally,” just as it added that paragraph 47 (2) of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended, was not of general application as canvassed by the respondents’ counsel.
According to the tribunal, “The fact that the application for the recount of the ballot papers was made orally does not in our view make the application incompetent and we so hold.
“It is important to note that the petitioners had in their paragraph 753, made it abundantly clear that they would, before or at the trial of this petition, apply and pray this tribunal to order the production of the ballot papers and the consequent recount with a view to showing this tribunal that the second respondent was not duly elected.
“The first respondent did not, in his reply, oppose the paragraph. They are therefore, deemed to have consented to the recounting of the ballot papers.”
The tribunal similarly noted that the second respondents in their paragraph 811, had stated that counting of ballot papers was acceptable to them provided that the ballot papers remained intact.
The tribunal held that the issue of tampering with ballot papers was another issue that required proof.
“What is important is that the second respondent had accepted the recounting of ballot papers. The third respondent in their paragraph 499, opposed the recount on the ground that counting of the votes only takes place at the polling units and not in court.
“The position of the third respondent is not tenable in law because in the case of Ekeh Vs Enang and two others, the Court of Appeal allowed recounting of the ballot papers on the orders of the tribunal,” it said.
The tribunal noted that it was on record that the tribunal had earlier permitted the petitioners to examine and scan ballot papers which they did.
Meanwhile, the recounting of the ballot papers for the four local governments commenced about 10.55a.m., yesterday and was being observed by the three-man tribunal headed by Justice Ahmed Badamasi, counsel to the petitioners and respondents and journalists covering the tribunal.
The recounting continues today.