THE Delta State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, sitting in Asaba, yesterday, refused the requests of the governorship candidate of Labour Party, LP, and his All Progressives Congress, APC, counterpart in the state, Chief Great Ogboru and Olorogun O’tega Emerhor, respectively, to nullify the election of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, candidate in the April 11 governorship election.
The three-man tribunal, headed by Justice Nasiru Gumi, held that Chief Ogboru was unable to prove his claim that the election conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, did not comply with the Electoral Act, 2010.
It described the petition by Emerhor and APC as “unusual”, as they did not lead with credible evidence to establish the allegation of corrupt practices alleged by them in their petition.
The tribunal held that both petitions were incompetent and dismissed them.
Delivering judgment on the Ogboru and LP petition, the tribunal held that the allegation of excessive voting was not valid following contradicting reports of witnesses brought before it by the petitioners.
Justice Gumi said: “On the allegation of corrupt practices, the petitioners have not been able to prove beyond reasonable doubt, allegations of snatching of ballot boxes and stuffing of ballot boxes. In addition, the petitioners failed to prove the cases of corrupt practices on election day as alleged in the petition. The first respondent is the duly elected governor of Delta State. The petitioners failed to prove their allegations. The petitions are hereby dismissed with a cost of N50, 000 each on the petitioners.”
It said, “The issue of whether the first respondent was duly elected is a non-issue because he was returned by INEC.”
On the petition by Emerhor and APC, the tribunal held that the petitioners also failed to prove the allegations of electoral malpractices in their petition, saying, “The petition lacked merit, it is bound to fail, it has failed and is hereby dismissed. The petition is unusual for a governorship electoral petition. It contains only 17 paragraphs. It is on seven pages of A4 paper and on one and a half type space. There are 25 local government areas in Delta State and by virtue of polling units, there are at least, 3,329 polling units in the state. One would have thought that there would have been pleadings on what transpired in the polling units but this was not the case.”
It said it was, therefore, not surprised at the lean pleadings of the petition, as the petitioners dwelt more on the use of card readers vis a vis their deployment for the election and the legality of INEC introducing it in the first instance, instead of proving the allegation of corrupt practices they canvassed.
The tribunal dismissed the evidence of a witness to the petitioners that INEC ordered that the use of card readers for the election should be bypassed, saying, “also, the evidence of one of the witnesses amounts to hearsay, and is not admissible.”
Emerhor, Ogboru react
The APC candidate, Olorogun Emerhor, in his reaction, rejected the verdict of the tribunal, saying that he would appeal the judgment and stretch it to the Supreme Court if need be.
He declared: “This is the first- level court. We will appeal and eventually to the Supreme Court. Our case is not different from that of Rivers and Akwa Ibom cases. They will all be tested at the higher courts.”
Chief Ogboru, speaking through the chairman of LP, Chief Tony Ezeagu, who left the tribunal immediately it threw out Ogboru’s petition, also said his party would appeal the judgment.
Okowa lauds judgment
The victorious Governor Okowa lauded the judgment, describing it as a victory for democracy, saying, “The judiciary has come of age, and their judgment was thorough. It was a fair and landmark judgment. Today, I call on the opposition to join hands with me to develop Delta State and wipe out the tears of the people.
Ogboru had dragged Governor Okowa, PDP and INEC to the tribunal, saying the declaration of the election results in 21 of the 25 local government areas of the state were invalid on grounds of alleged irregularities and over voting.
He had prayed the court to nullify the election result on grounds that it did not comply with relevant electoral law and that the electorate did not elect Okowa, claiming he did not fulfil the requirement of section 178 of the Electoral Act.
Ogboru also alleged that INEC announced the results before compilation was completed and the number of recorded votes exceeded the number of accredited votes by the card readers.
On his part, the APC candidate, Emerhor, urged the tribunal to nullify the election based on alleged irregularities, violence and non-compliance with the relevant electoral laws
The three-man panel of the tribunal, which commenced judgment at about 9: 47am, however, dismissed the petition for lack of merit.
Speaker, others hail judgment
Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Chief Monday Igbuya, chairman of PDP in the state, Chief Edwin Uzor, a lawmaker, Chief Sheriff Oborevwori, Chief Arthur Akpowowo, Chief Fred Majemite, Chief Ebenezer Okorodudu, Chief Emmanuel Aguariavwodo, Mr Suuny Onuesoke, Olorogun John Oguma, Chief Amos Itihwe, Mr Christopher Ochor, and Chief Beck Hitler, a prominent leader in Gbaramatu Kingdom, described the judgment as a true reflection of the wish of Deltans.