*Wins at retrial elections tribunal
By Austin Ogwuda
ASABA – THE five-man retrial elections Tribunal sitting in Asaba, yesterday, dismissed the petition filed by the Democratic Peoples Partyâ€™s governorship candidate in the 2007 polls, Chief Great Ogboru, challenging the election of Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan as Governor of Delta State.
But in a swift reaction, Great Ogboru said he will approach the Court of Appeal for justice.
The tribunal, in a unanimous decision, held that the petitioner failed woefully to prove that there was no election in most of the voting centres as alleged in the petition and that he also failed to prove the gross rigging which he complained of.
It also stated that the petitioner failed to take advantage of disfranchised voters to prove his case as well as the opportunity granted him to inspect electoral materials during the said election and tender relevant documents.
According to the judgment read by Chairman of the tribunal, Justice B.S. Mohammed, â€œa lot of doubt has been cast in the statements of the petitionerâ€™s witnesses, the onus of proving non-voting lies on the petitioner which the petitioner failed to prove.
â€œCases are won in the court by hard facts and not by mere sentiments. The evidence adduced by the petitioner is hardly inadequate. This petition fails and hereby dismissedâ€.
No cost was, however, awarded.
There was jubilation around the court premises as news of the judgment filtered out.
On the whole, the petitioner fielded 68 witnesses, while the respondents called 21 witnesses.
Chairman of the State DPP, Chief Tony Ezeagwu, who claimed he was speaking on behalf of Ogboru shortly after the judgment, told reporters that â€œwe are not satisfied. We didnâ€™t get the best, so we are heading for appealâ€.
This was one of the petitions remitted by the Court of Appeal, Benin Division, having been struck out earlier by a different panel.
The legal fireworks actually began on February 27 this year, and when the retrial was about to commence, there was a move made to stop the hearing of the petition after being remitted for retrial.
Mr. Adebayo Adenipekun (SAN) and Mr. Efe Akpofure (SAN), both counsel to Governor Uduaghan and PDP respectively, had brought an application asking the tribunal to hands off.
Akpofure (SAN) had submitted that hearing afresh the petition â€œwill amount to judicial harassment and nuisance to subject the respondents to another trial after appeals have been struck outâ€.
On his part, Adenipekun (SAN) submitted that â€œI am not aware of any judgment in respect of this matter asking us to come here for retrialâ€.
However, Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Mohammed, in his ruling, stated that â€œit was clear that this tribunal is in receipt of two petitions (that of Peter Okocha and Great Ogboru).
â€œIt is not in dispute and cannot be disputed and it is very clear that this tribunal was constituted to hear the petition (Ogboruâ€™s) on the meritâ€.
He noted that what Adenipekun and Akpofure were asking the tribunal to do in their submissions was a review of the Court of Appeal decision, adding that â€œthis we will not venture as the respondents would want us to doâ€.
Meanwhile, the Delta State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Oma Djebah, has declared that the judgment of the retrial tribunal â€œeffectively lays to rest any issue arising from the 2007 governorship elections as the judiciary has categorically affirmed that Governor Uduaghan was massively elected by the majority of Deltans,â€ adding that â€œwhat is now needed is for all Deltans irrespective of shades of opinion or political persuasion to join hands with the Uduaghan administration for the overall benefit of the State.â€