The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on Friday dismissed an appeal brought before it by the governorship candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Delta state, Great Ogboru and his party, seeking to unseat the state governor, Ifeanyi Okowa.
A five-member panel of justices of the appellate court led by Justice Uzo Ndukwe-Anyanwu had last week reserved judgment after counsel adopted and argued their brief of argument in the appeal.
The appellate court in its judgement found no merit in the appeal challenging Okowa’s election and consequently dismissed it while affirming the decision of the Delta State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, which had earlier affirmed Okowa’s election.
The court held that the appellants failed to prove the allegations of over-voting, malpractices and violations of Electoral Act and added that the appellate court cannot set aside the decision of a lower court, unless, such decision is perverse and that, in the instance case, the decision of the lower tribunal is not preserved.
The panel of justices also agreed with the tribunal that the failure of the appellants to call polling agents from all the 896 polling units across all the local government areas of the state to prove their allegations was fatal to their case.
“in conclusion, this court finds no merit in the appeal, the appeal failed and the decision of the lower tribunal is hereby affirmed”, the court held in the unanimous judgment.
Governor Okowa, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are the respondents in the appeal, where-in Ogboru and his party, APC sought 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 scored the majority of the lawful votes cast in the election.
But the appellants, in 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 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, a request the court granted in its judgment yesterday.