OKOWA TRIUMPHS, AS APPEAL COURT DISMISSES OGBORU, APC’s PETITION

The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on Friday, November 15, 2019, affirmed Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State as the winner of the March 9 governorship election in the State.

The Appellate Court upheld the judgement of the election tribunal which had earlier affirmed Okowa, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner of the March 9, Delta governorship election.

The five-man panel of Appeal Court of Justices led by Justice Uzo Ndukwe-Anyanwu upheld the decision of the tribunal, which had earlier dismissed the petition of the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Chief Ogboru and his party, the APC, for lacking in merit and declared Senator Okowa as the duly elected governor of Delta State.

The Appellate Court had also, in the unanimous judgement delivered by Justice Habeeb Abiru, aligned with the tribunal judgement which had on Sept. 20, ruled that the APC candidate could not prove his allegations of over voting and other electoral irregularities leveled against Gov. Okowa and the PDP at the poll.

It would be recalled that the Independent National Electoral Commission had declared the governor the winner of the March 9, 2019 Delta governorship election.

Dissatisfied with INEC’s declaration, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Chief Great Ogboru approached the Delta State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal to challenge Okowa’s declaration.

Chief Ogboru and his party the APC had alleged that the election was marred with irregularities, over-voting and substantial non-compliance with the electoral act and guidelines, prayed the tribunal to nullify the election and order the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct a fresh exercise or declare him winner on the ground that he scored majority of lawful votes cast during that exercise.

The three man panel of the Delta governorship election tribunal, led by Justice Suleiman Belgore, had in the September ruling, dismissed Ogboru and APC’s petition against the return of Governor Okowa on grounds that the petition lacked merit and the petitioners failed to prove the cases of irregularities and malpractices claimed in their petition.

After the tribunal’s verdict, the APC and its candidate went ahead to file an appeal and in approaching the Court of Appeal, Chief Ogboru and the APC in their appeal against the decision of the tribunal, 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 also urged the court to nullify okowa’s election on the claim 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 substantial non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act in relation to accreditation of voters.

Responding in their own brief of argument, Mr Damian Dodo, SAN and Mr Akinlolu Kehinde, SAN for Okowa and PDP respectively, had urged the Court of Appeal to dismiss Ogboru and APC’s appeal for being incompetent and unmeritorious, even as they submitted that the appellants not only failed to prove their allegations of over voting and non compliance with the Electoral Act, but also how these substantially affected the results of the election.