*’I’ll go on appeal, judgment nothing but grave injustice’— Omo-Agege
*PDP asks Omo-Agege, Gbagi, Pela to abandon further litigation
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South -South and Ochuko Akuopha
DELTA State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Asaba, yesterday, validated the victory of Governor Sheriff Oborevwori in the March 18, 2023 gubernatorial election in the State.
It dismissed, for lacking merit, the petitions brought by the governorship candidates of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, Social Democratic Party, SDP, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, and Labour Party, LP, Ken Pela.
This is just as APC candidate, Omo-Agege, has indicated his intention to appeal the judgment, describing it “nothing but grave injustice that will not stand appellate scrutiny”
Omo-Agege, in his petition, alleged non-compliance with the Electoral Act; corrupt practices during the election, and swore that Oborevwori was not returned as winner with majority of lawful votes
He sought an order nullifying Oborevwori’s election and declaring him (Omo- Agege) as the winner of the election.
The three-member tribunal panel headed by Justice C.H. Ahuchaogu, in its judgment dismissed the petition for being speculative and lacking in merit.
On allegation of overvoting, the tribunal held that the petitioners failed to tender the BVAS machine in evidence to prove their case, holding that the fulcrum of proof of overvoting was the BVAS.
On allegation of corrupt practices, the tribunal held that the petitioner failed to prove that the alleged inflation of votes substantially affected the outcome of the election.
The tribunal also held that the petitioner had a duty to prove its claim polling unit by polling unit, but failed to do so. It held that the petitioner failed to prove the allegations, saying that their evidence amounted to hearsay evidence.
It, therefore, affirmed the return of Oborevwori as the winner of the gubernatorial polls in the state.
In dismissing Olororun Kenneth Gbagi’s petition, the tribunal held that the petitioner was unable to marshal serious evidence capable of dislodging Oborevwori’s victory.
Gbagi, in his petition, had also challenged the qualification of those that contested with him in the March 18, 2023 gubernatorial election in the state. The tribunal, however, dismissed the petition in its entirety. Similarly, the tribunal dismissed Ken Pela’s petition, saying that the petitioner failed to discharge the burden of proof.
What mainly jeopardized the case of the three petitioners was their inability to present BVAS report in aid of their allegations.
Justice Ahuchaogu stated: “Tribunal wonders why the petitioners failed to produce BVAS report. Tribunal agrees with respondents’ argument. By Supreme Court judgement, BVAS is mandatory to prove over-voting.”
“BVAS was not produced but they tried to use other documents. The petitioner cannot circumvent the BVAS, as report of examination of back end server cannot replace the BVAS. This report is held to be irrelevant. Flowing from above, the report is inadmissible to prove overvoting.
The tribunal held that the fulcrum of proof of overvoting is the BVAS. The petitioner did not plead extract from BVAS and so could not tender same.
“Any evidence given by anyone who was not at the polling units is mere hearsay. Tribunal wonders why their agents at the polling units were not called. “No evidence of wrongful entries was led by petitioner. An election cannot be nullified if it appears to the tribunal that it was conducted in substantial compliance. Tribunal cannot go out to find evidence for non compliance”.
On the issue of non-compliance, the tribunal said the petitioner jettisoned the provisions of the law to prove non-compliance in every unit. “A petitioner who alleges non-compliance must prove it polling unit by polling unit. Petitioner relied on only PW1 who was not even in any of the units. They can only be said to purport. In sum, the petitioner failed to prove non-compliance”.
On the allegations of corrupt practices, the tribunal said no evidence was led as to who committed the crime and no evidence led as to how the allegations affected the outcome of the election. The tribunal held that petitioners gave particulars of inflated figures but failed to to show how it affected the result.
“The tribunal finds that the inflation is of no consequence and will not affect the result if removed. Issue resolved in favor of respondents.
“Not duly elected by a majority of lawful votes cast in the election. Petitioner is not able to strictly prove this. Considering earlier findings on the other grounds of the petitioner, this ground of the petition is bound to fail and is held as failed.
“The petitioner led no evidence as to the votes that are unlawful and should be reduced. They complained of an unascertained number of votes.
“Pleadings where no evidence is led amounts to no issue. They abandoned the case and sought to rely on the tribunal. This approach lacks credibility. Issue resolved in favour of respondents.
“The case of petitioners based essentially on hearsay evidence that is legally inadmissible. They have led to no credible and indubitable evidence.
It’s God that gives power – Oborevwori
Reacting to his victory, Governor Oborevwori pledged his commitment to remain a servant-leader, saying it is God that gives power. At a thanksgiving service held at the Government House Chapel, he said: “Today’s judgement at the Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal marks a turning point to our quest to enthrone an enduring democracy in our state. I am very happy and I know that Deltans are happy because the scriptures have been confirmed again that it is God who appoints leaders.
“We are here to thank God for giving us this victory despite all opposition. We have come here to return all the glory to God. “I am willing to serve all of you so take me as your own because it is God that gives power.
“The victory is for all Deltans and we dedicate it to the Almighty God. This victory didn’t come as a surprise because we won in 21 out of 25 local government areas. More development will come to the state and we must give Deltans what they deserve for supporting us to victory.
“For us to win in 21 out of 25 shows that God is with us and when you have God, nothing can be impossible. My advice to my other brothers is that they should join us to advance Delta so that our state can develop further”.
In his reaction, APC candidate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, in a statement he personally signed said,
“In reaching its judgment, the Tribunal in Asaba, in our respectful view, failed to avert its mind to the intendment of the plethora of unambiguous innovations now contained in the Electoral Act, 2022.
If the Tribunal dutifully attended to the unassailable evidence in support of all the polling unit results and every other relevant electoral document duly tendered before it using our present electoral jurisprudence and benchmarks already set by the Supreme Court as its compass, today’s outcome would have been clearly in our favour.
For the matters mentioned herein and much more, we say with calm confidence and conviction that today’s judgment is nothing but a grave injustice that will not stand appellate scrutiny. In view of the foregoing, I have instructed my erudite legal team to immediately appeal the judgement of the Tribunal. We are grateful for their steady industry and extraordinary commitment. I call on our people to remain calm and law-abiding”.
PDP asks Omo-Agege, Gbagi, Pela to abandon further litigation
Meanwhile, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in Delta State has advised the governorship candidates, whose petitions against the Governor Sheriff Oborevwori, were dismissed yesterday by the state Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, not to waste further energy and resources on futile litigation.
Publicity Secretary of the party, Dr. Ifeanyi Osuosa, in a statement congratulating the victorious governor, said the judgment was an endorsement of the voice of the people.
According to him, “The Tribunal’s decision is not only a sweet victory for all Deltans, but also a clear endorsement of the desire of our people, who came out en masse to vote overwhelmingly for PDP, on March 18, 2023. We applaud the judiciary for a thorough, articulate and well-delivered judgement.
“We, therefore, advise the three petitioners, Mr. Ken Pela, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, and Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi in good faith not to expend more resources in these hard times, in pursuit of further litigation that will amount to the futile effort. “They should join hands with Governor Oborevwori, who has indeed started so well and exhibited impressive governance and excellent leadership skills since assuming office, to continue the fine work of delivering the dividends of democracy to our people in line with his MORE Agenda.”
Allow Oborevwori to work, stop litigation Solomon tells Omo-Agege
Also, the Senior Policy Adviser to Governor Sheriff Oborevwori, Rt. Hon. Funkekeme Solomon, has urged the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, to abate further litigation, and respect the verdict of the people.
Solomon, in a statement, applauding Governor Oborevwori over the upholding of his election by the Tribunal said Omo-Agege lost the election, and should stop attempting to use the judiciary to upturn the will of Deltans.
He said, “Omo-Agege should halt further litigation and let Deltans engage with the reality of Oborevwori’s administration. “Governor Oborevwori won fair and square. It is only fitting and logical that the tribunal has affirmed it. Anyone that seeks to rule the people must learn to respect the people’s choice at any time. The court is not an instrument for attempting to subvert the will of the people. I commend the judges for their decision.
They have, by the judgment, reinforced our people’s confidence in the electoral process and in the judiciary as an unbiased arbiter. “Despite the challenges by opposition parties to his victory, Oborevwori has remained focused on governance and has already hit the ground running with remarkable infrastructural projects and will deliver more to the state. “