Delta, Abia, Niger, Taraba Governors Win at Supreme Court

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Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Supreme Court on Wednesday in landmark judgments upheld the elections of Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, his colleagues, Okezie Ikpeazu, Darius Ishiaku and Abubakar Bello of Abia, Taraba and Niger States respectively.

The apex court in a unanimous decisions in the different appeals against their election held that appeallants failed to substantiate claims of irregularities and electoral malpractices against their emergence as winners of the March 9 governorship election in their respective states.

The Supreme Court in arriving at its decisions in the various appeals held that it can only interfare in the decisions of the lower court when it was able to establish that such judgments were perversed or occasioned a miscarriage of justice.

However, the four Justices who delivered lead judgments in the various appeals all held that the appellants did not adduce credible evidence to warrant judgment in their favour.

Justice Centus Nweze in his judgment in the appeal filed by Chief Great Ogboru held that the appellant nailed himself by dumping documents on the tribunal without demonstrating them as required by law.

Justice Nweze further held that Ogboru laboured in vain in his petition by relying on hearsay evidence that cannot be given any probative value.

In addition the Supreme Court held that the appellant failed to prove allegations of over voting and other electoral malpractices.

According to the judge the appellants were wrong in anchoring their case on the smart card reader which the apex court had consistently held was not superior to the manual accreditation method.

In the appeal filed by candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) Dr Alex Otti against the election of Governor Ikpeazu, the Supreme in another unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Paul Galunje held that the appeal lacked merit and was liable to dismissal.

The court agreed with Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN, who stood for the governor that the allegation of over-voting was not successfully established.

Justice Galunje held that the appellants failed woefully to tender and demonstrate crucial documents such as the voter register and form EC8A (statement of results containing number of accredited voters and number of voters.

The court held that the mere dumping of documents was not appropriate at the election tribunal, adding that their makers must be called to demonstrate them.

The court also agreed with Olanipekun that section 49 of the Electoral Act which allowed manual voting system has not been deleted by the National Assembly and that voting through voter register supercedes any other electronic voting system.

He accordingly dismissed Otti’s appeal for lacking in merit.

Similarly the apex court in another unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Ejembi Eko, agreed with Ishaku’s lawyer, Kanu Agabi SAN, that the All Progressive Congress (APC) had no candidate in the March 9 governorship election and ought not to have challenged the election in the first instance.

Justice Eko held that APC’s candidate, Abubakar Danladi who was disqualified by a Federal High Court was not lawfully substituted by the APC.

He further held that the fact that the APC came second in the March 9 governorship election in Taraba State did not confer participation of the party in the election, adding that votes cast for the APC are wasted and liable to be cancelled.

The court accordingly dismissed the appeal for lacking merit.

In the Niger State governorship tussle which borders on alleged non qualification and giving false information, the apex court dismissed the appeal for being statute barred.

Delivering judgment in the appeal, Justice Mary Uwani Abaji held that the Supreme Court will not tamper with the concurrent decisions of both the Court of Appeal and the election petition tribunal.

Justice Abaji held that the Court of Appeal was right in holding that the decision of the tribunal was delivered outside the 180 days allowed by law.

According to the apex court, a judgment already declared a nullity by the Court of Appeal cannot confer any benefit on the PDP candidate and any other party.

The judge therefore agreed that the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction to entertain the appeal and consequently struck it out for want of jurisdiction.