Godwin Tsa Abuja
Legal moves by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to wrestle power from Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State failed yesterday at the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, which upheld his election victory.
A five-man panel of the appellate court, in a unanimous decision dismissed the appeal that was filed by governorship candidate of the APC, in the state, Chief Great Ogboru.
The Justice Uzo Ndukwe-Anyanwu led panel, affirmed the judgement of the Delta State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, which had on September 20, declared Okowa of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as the valid winner of the gubernatorial contest that held on March 9.
It was the position of the court that it would only set aside the unanimous decision of the lower court where it was found to be perverse. Besides, the intermediate appellate court held that Ogboru and his party, failed to prove their allegation that the governorship election was not only fraught with manifest irregularities, but was also not conducted in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act.
The court said though the appellants challenged results that were credited to governor Okowa and the PDP in over 800 polling units in the state, they called a total of 20 witnesses, out of which only five of them served as polling unit agents. It noted that the appellants failed to call relevant witnesses to give eyewitness account of what transpired at the contested polling units.
The court equally held that by doing so, the appellants were unable to discharge the burden of proof that was placed on them by the law. It also held that most of the witnesses that testified on behalf of the appellants were not competent to establish any of the ingredients of electoral offence that was alleged in the petition that challenged Okowa’s election. Besides, it held that the appellants failed to use the Voters Register to prove that there was over-voting.
It maintained that their sole reliance on report from Smart Card Reader Machines, proved fatal to their case. The appellate court said it found no merit in the appeal and accordingly dismissed it. Also listed as respondents in the dismissed appeal were the PDP and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Chief Ogboru and the APC had in their 37 grounds of appeal, challenged the tribunal judgement that dismissed their petition for want of merit.