By Tobi Soniyi
The Supreme Court has set aside the judgement of the Court of Appeal Benin, which ordered that a fresh tribunal be constituted to determine whether Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, possessed the qualifications for election as governor.
In a judgement delivered by Justice Rhodes Vivour, the Supreme Court said that the Peoples Democratic Party governorship candidate, Major General Charles Airhiavbere (retired) did not specifically plead the issue of his qualification.
The court upheld the arguments of Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, who had pleaded with the court to uphold the appeal. Six other justices of the court agreed with Justice Rhodes-Vivour.
The governorship election tribunal had refused to consider the allegation that Oshiomhole did not possess the qualification to contest for governor.
However, the Supreme Court ordered the parties to go back to the tribunal and determine the allegation of irregularities.
The Court of Appeal in Benin had upturned the tribunal's decision and ordered the parties to return back to a newly constituted tribunal for the determination of whether Oshiomhole had the basic qualifications or not.
The governor was dissatisfied with the Appeal Court judgement and consequently appealed to the Supreme Court.
Arguing the appeal, Olanipekun said there was no basis for the judgement of the court of appeal.
According to him, the petitioner premised his petition on corrupt practice and non-compliance with the Electoral Act 2010, but not on Oshiomhole's non-qualification.
He said that the Court of Appeal made a case for the respondent, which the respondent did not make for himself.
The petition challenges results in five out of 18 local governments. He said that PDP honourably withdrew from the petition because it was hopeless.
Responding, counsel to Airhiavbere, Chief Efe Akpofure, SAN, asked the court to dismiss the appeal and affirm the judgement of the lower court.
He said that the tribunal did not say that there was no ground to sustain the allegation that Oshiomhole did not have the qualification to run for governor.
He said that the fact that non-qualification was not made a separate ground was not a basis to hold that there was no ground in the pleadings to sustain the allegation that Oshiomhole was not qualified.
Akpofure called on the Supreme Court to read the whole petition as a whole.
He also argued that the tribunal found that the allegation of Oshiomhole's non-qualification was raised in the pleading but held that it was a pre-election matter.
In the appeal, Oshiomhole faulted the judgement of the Court of Appeal on six grounds.
The Senior Advocate said that the issue raised by the petitioner regarding Oshiomhole's qualification to contest the election was a pre-election matter upon which the tribunal had no jurisdiction to adjudicate.
In the petition, the PDP candidate had alleged that Oshiomhole was not eligible to contest the election as a result of his academic qualification, as provided for in the Electoral Act and the 1999 Constitution.
The PDP candidate claimed that Oshiomhole only tendered a Modern School Leaving Certificate without a primary School certificate, which by the constitution did not qualify him to contest the election.