By Ikechukwu Okaforadi
Governor Dapo Abiodun on Friday opened his defence in the petition filed against him by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Ladi Adebutu, before the Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
PDP and Adebutu in the petition marked, EPT/OG/GOV/03/2023 are challenging the victory of Abiodun, saying the Electoral Act was not complied with.
In his petition, Adebutu alleged that elections were disrupted by thugs in over 99 polling units, saying over 40,000 prospective voters were disenfranchised in the March 18 polls.
Adebutu had earlier closed his case after calling 94 witnesses and tendering exhibits of over 200,000 documents in evidence.
The Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, which is the first respondent in the case, closed its case on Wednesday without calling any witnesses.
As the tribunal resumed sitting on Friday, Abiodun through its counsel, Prof Taiwo Osipitan, SAN, opened his defence in the petition.
The witness, Jimoh Gbadebo, who testified in the defence, admitted disruption of the March 18 election in seven out of 14 polling units in Ward 6, Sagamu, Sagamu Local Government Area of the State, where he acted as the Ward Collation Agent of the All Progressives Congress (APC)
Gbadebo mentioned that the affected polling units are Units 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 11 and 12, all in Sagamu Local Government.
According to him, masked political thugs, after about four hours into the election, stormed the polling unit and disrupted the exercise by destroying the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), ballot boxes and papers.
He told the court that the same group of thugs disrupted elections in the seven units by moving from one place to another, saying he did not tag the thugs as PDP members.
He said due to the disruption of the election, INEC recorded zero votes for all parties in the election.
“I can’t recognise them (thugs). When they came, they were shouting ‘No BVAS, No BVAS’.
“The polling units were not far from each other. Those who came disrupted the exercise by moving from one polling unit to another.
“They destroyed ballot boxes, papers, BVAS machines and other electoral materials. Everyone ran away, I ran away too.
“I didn’t say the election was disrupted by PDP members or by anyone sharing money,” Gbadebo said.
When he was shown a certified true copy of INEC Form EC8B, Gbadebo said he did not sign the document neither did any APC agent.
Meanwhile, the tribunal has adjourned till Monday, August 7, at the request of Abiodun’s counsel, Osipitan.