The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the elections of four governors including Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Others are Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia State), Darius Ishaku, (Taraba State) and Abubakar Bello (Niger State).
In four separate judgments, a seven-man panel of the court, led by Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour, held that the appellants failed to prove their cases.
Justice Centus Chima Nweze, who read the lead judgment in the appeal marked: SC/1455/2019, on the Delta State governorship election, held that Great Ogboru of the All Progressives Congress (APC) failed to prove his allegation of irregularities.
Justice Nweze agreed with the submissions by Damian Dodo, SAN, (for Okowa), Akinlolu Kehinde, SAN, (for the PDP) and John Baiyeshea, SAN, (for the Independent National Electoral Commission) to the effect that the appeal was a waste of the court’s time.
The judge agreed with Kehinde’s submission that Ogboru, who challenged elections in 896 polling units, only called witnesses in respect of five polling units, which was greatly inadequate.
In further holding that the appellant, who was the petitioner at the tribunal, failed in establishing his case, Justice Nweze noted that although Ogboru tendered voters’ registers, he failed to demonstrated and linked them with his case as required by law.
Justice Nweze said there was no reason for the Supreme Court to tamper with the concurrent decisions of the two lower courts – the tribunal and Court of Appeal – which earlier upheld Okowa’s election.
He said, ”This appeal is a share waste of the court’s precious time. There is no merit in the appeal and it is hereby dismissed.”
Justice Nweze proceeded to declare: I hereby uphold the election of the 1st respondent (Okowa) as the validly elected candidate of Delta State.
Other members of the panel: Rodes-Vivour, Musa Datijo Muhammad, Amina Augie, Paul Galumje, Ejembi Eko, Uwani Abba-Aji agreed with the lead judgment.
Justice Galumje, who read the lead judgment in the appeal, marked: SC/1465/19, agreed with Ikpeazu’s lawyer, Wole Olanipekun (SAN) that the appellant, Alex Otti of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) failed to prove his case.
The judge was of the view the Otti’s heavy reliance on card reader report, in his attempt to prove his claim of over voting, was not helpful.
He noted that the position of the law is that card reader report has not displaced voters’ register in proving over-voting in election, in view of the provision of Section 46 of the Electoral Act, which provides for manual accreditation.
Justice Galumje held that the petitioner at the tribunal, Otti filed to demonstrate the documentary evidence he tendered as required, but merely dumped them on the tribunal.
Ikpeazu has hailed the Supreme Court’s decision, upholding his election.
He said the decision has has finally put the case over his re-selection to rest.
Speaking for the governor, his Chief of Staff, Dr. Anthony Agbazuere said ”the appellant has dragged the governor to court for about 10 times and the governor defeated him in all the 10 times.
”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 judgement of the apex court today, he has lost the opportunity.”
In dismissing the appeal against Ishaku’s re-election in Taraba State, Justice Ejembi Eko, in the lead judgement, held that it was wrong for the All Progressives Congress (APC) to have queried the outcome of the election when it had no candidate in the election.
Justice Eko, who noted that APC’s candidate, Abubakar Sanni Danladi, was disqualified before the election, and the party had no replacement, said it (the APC) could not be said to have participated in the election.
He said the court has held that it is the candidate who wins election and not the political party, and as such “the party, whose candidate was disqualified, did not validly participate in the election.
“The appeal is mere academic exercise. It is an abuse of court process and is dismissed.”
Justice Abba-Aji, who read the lead judgment in the appeal by Umar Nasko of the PDP, against the Bello’s election, held that the appeal was without merit.
She noted that, since the judgment of the governorship election tribunal, which was delivered outside the prescribed time, had been voided by the lower court, it was wrong for the appellant to seek to benefit from it.
“No party can claim benefit from a judgment declared a nullity,” Justice Abba-Aji said and proceeded to dismiss the appeal marked: SC/1446/2019.
The judge said the judgment also applied to two other appeals : SC/1452/2019 and SC/1451/2019 similar to the one decided.