Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Supreme Court wednesday upheld the elections of four governors, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta), Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia State), Chief Darius Ishaku (Taraba State) and Alhaji Abubakar Bello (Niger State).
The apex court in unanimous decisions in the different appeals against the governors’ elections, held that appellants failed to substantiate claims of irregularities and electoral malpractices against the declaration of the governors 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 could only interfere in the decisions of the lower courts 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 against the election of Okowa 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 lacked 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 that is not superior to the manual accreditation method.
Ogboru through his counsel, Mr. Yunus Usman (SAN) had alleged that 757,784 voters were accredited on the election day while Okowa alone was allegedly allocated with 955,274 votes, adding that in 15 local government areas, out of the 25 LGAs in the state, the number of voters superseded the number of accredited voters.
However, Okowa’s counsel, Mr. Damian Dodo (SAN), informed the court that the petition, which formed the basis of the appeal died at the tribunal because the appellants did not tender a single voter register to establish his allegations of over-voting.
He said the smart card reader report relied upon by the appellants was self-contradictory because Ogboru failed to state the number of votes allegedly allocated to the governor, while he called only five polling unit agents out of 896 polling units in the state as his witness.
However, in the judgment, Justice Nweze agreed with Dodo that the failure of the appellants to tender the voters’ register was fatal to their case, adding that Ogboru failed to show how the alleged over-voting affected his chances at the election.
He accordingly dismissed the appeal for being incompetent and lacking in merit and held that Okowa was lawfully declared elected having won majority of the votes cast at the March 9 governorship election in the state.
In the appeal filed by candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) governorship candidate, Dr. Alex Otti, against the election of Ikpeazu, the Supreme Court, 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 to tender and demonstrate crucial documents such as the voters’ 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 supersedes 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, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), that the All Progressives Congress (APC) has 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, Mr. Abubakar Danladi, who was disqualified by the 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 were wasted and liable to be cancelled.
“This petition is a mere academic exercise and cannot be given any value; and being an abuse of court process, it shall be and is hereby dismissed,” the judge noted.
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 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 has no jurisdiction to entertain the appeal and consequently struck it out for want of jurisdiction.
Reacting to the judgment, the Chief of Staff to the Abia State Governor, Dr. Anthony Agbazuere, who spoke to journalists outside the court’s premises in Abuja, said the apex court had finally put the case against the governor’s re-election to rest.
“The appellant has dragged the governor to court for about 10 times and all the 10 times the governor defeated him.
”Instead of going to court to challenge an election that was obvious to everyone that the governor won, he should have just made peace. But with the judgment of the apex court today, he has lost the opportunity,” he said.