By Edith Nwapi
The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on Monday reserved judgment in the appeal filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate Great Ogboru against the election of Ifeanyi Okowa as Governor of Delta.
A five-member panel of the appellate court led by Justice Uzo Ndukwe-Anyanwu, reserved judgment to a date that would be communicated to parties shortly after all counsel adopted and argued their brief of argument in the appeal.
Respondents in the appeal are Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Ogboru and his party, APC are seeking to upturn the decision of the Delta State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal which returned Okowa for a second term as governor of Delta State.
INEC had declared Okowa and PDP winner of the March 9 governorship election in Delta State, haven garnered majority of the lawful votes cast in the election.
But the appellants in a 37 grounds of appeal filed by their counsel, Nicholson Ichekor, asked the Court of Appeal to set aside the entire judgment of the tribunal on the grounds that the tribunal erred in law when it dismissed their appeal for lacking in merit.
The three man panel of the governorship election panel led by Justice Suleiman Belgore, had in September dismissed Ogboru and APC’s petition against the return of Governor Okowa on grounds that the petitioners failed to prove the cases of irregularities and malpractices claimed in their petition.
However in the appeal against the the decision of the tribunal, Ogboru and APC argued that the lower court erred in law when it relied on the issue of over voting instead of allocation of votes as canvassed in their petition to dismiss their petition.
The appellants in urging the court to nullify okowa’s election claimed that in some polling units, the total number of votes cast at the election exceeded the total number of voters who were accredited to vote, adding that there was non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act in relation to accreditation of voters.
However, in response to the appeal, Okowa and the PDP urged the Court of Appeal to dismiss Ogboru and APC’s appeal for being incompetent and unmeritorious.
In their brief of argument by Mr Damien Dodo ,SAN and Mr Akinlolu Kehinde , SAN for Okowa and PDP respectively, the respondents submitted that the appellants failed to prove their allegations of over voting and non compliance with the Electoral Act.
The respondents claimed that they have led cogent, credible and reliable evidence to show that they won the governorship election held on March 9 in Delta.
They submitted that the appellants on the other hand failed to prove how their claims of over voting and non compliance substantially affected the results of the election.
In adopting his brief of arguments, PDP’s lawyer, Kehinde SAN, faulted the claim of the appellants which they said was based on the smart card reader report.
“Regardless of the fact that the total number of accredited voters recorded on the smart card reader report is less than the total number of votes cast on the election day, the appellants have failed to prove their allegations of over-voting.
“The reliance of the appellants on the smart card reader report is fatal to their case and this Honourable Court is humbly urged to so hold and resolve this issue in favour of the 2nd respondent” Kehinde submitted.
In addition, the senior lawyer argued that appellants’ case at the tribunal was one of over-voting and noncompliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act on accreditation.
PDP further claimed that appellants failed to prove their allegations of over-voting and noncompliance with the Electoral Act polling unit by polling unit.
“The appellants failed to prove that the allegations of over-voting and non-compliance with the Electoral Act substantially affected the result of the election”.
In an attempt to prove their case, the appellants called a total of twenty (20) witnesses and tendered a total of 4, 523 documents in evidence during the trial.
In defence of the petition, the 1st respondent called seven witnesses and tendered 94 Exhibits, while the 2nd respondent called three witnesses and tendered six Exhibits.
The 3rd respondent did not call any witness, but tendered two Exhibits.
But the tribunal in a unanimous judgment, dismissed the petition for being incompetent and lacking in merit.
According to the panel, the petitioners failed to prove any of the grounds upon which the petition was brought against Governor Okowa.