Anxiety has gripped the people of oil and gas rich Delta state ahead of the Monday, July, 25th, 2011 date fixed for final judgement by the re-run election petition tribunal sitting in Asaba.
Justice Uzoamaka Doris Ogwurike, chairman of the three-man panel is expected to deliver judgement as a result of the petition filed by Democratic Peoples’ Party (DPP) governorship candidate, Chief Great Ogboru against incumbent governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) challenging the results declared by INEC in eight local government areas during the January 6, 2011 re-run election.
Meanwhile, the tribunal has adopted the final addresses of counsels to parties in the matter before it, but ignored efforts by Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan to invalidate Chief Great Ogboru’s petition due to a Federal High Court judgment of Wednesday, July 20, 2011 which declared that Ogboru’s nomination as candidate in the April 2007 governorship election in Delta state was invalid.
While presenting his final address for adoption by the tribunal, counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Dr. Austin Ikpeazu (SAN) informed the tribunal of the Federal High Court judgement which invalidated the nomination of the petitioner.
“My lord it is not as if election did not take place but voting didn’t take place in some areas. Already a Federal High court had on Wednesday declared that the petitioner, Ogboru was not duly nominated as such ought not to have participated in the re-run election.” and urged the tribunal to dismiss in its entirety the petition of Ogboru having failed to prove his case beyond any reasonable doubt.
Also in his address, Mr. Wole Olanipekun (SAN), counsel to the 1st respondent, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, enjoined the tribunal to enforce the Federal High Court judgment, adding that Ogboru’s petition no longer has locus standi to prepare the petition before the tribunal since the judgement is binding on all parties in the matter before the tribunal.
“With reference to the Section 74 of the Evidence Act, your lordships are enjoined to enforce the Federal High Court judgment because the petition would have died a natural death.
“It therefore implies that the re-run election of January 6, 2011 was an off-shoot of the April 2007 governorship election and as such the 1st petitioner does not have locus standi to prepare this petition by virtue of Section 137 (1)A of the electoral Act.
In his response and final address, lead counsel to the petitioner, Mogbeyi Sagay (SAN), objected to all the submissions made by the counsels in their final addresses and urged the tribunal to allow the petition and jettison the prayers of the counsels to the first respondent (Uduaghan) and third respondent (INEC) as the judgement of the Federal High Court does not form part of the proceedings of the tribunal.
While citing section 743 of the Evidence Act, he argued that: “My lords, the two judgments been talked about here are not before your lordships as such the tribunal cannot rely on them and cannot form any basis of any judgment on the judgment that the tribunal shall give. My lords, the Federal High Court is just a realm judgment because that is not the final judgment. There is already an Appeal, stay of execution and injunction pending against that judgment and as such it cannot be considered as the final judgment.”
“INEC could not prove that election was conducted. Why did Justice Buba wait till now before delivering that judgment even apart from that the Federal High Court has no jurisdiction to entertain the case.”
After listening to both parties, the tribunal led by its chairman, Justice Doris Uzoamaka Ugwurike fixed Monday, July, 25th, 2011 for judgement.
The Wednesday, July 20, 2011 judgment by Justice Ibrahim M. Buba of the Federal High Court, Asaba in a suit No FHC/ASB/CS/104/2011 had elicited hope in the camp of the PDP should the tribunal enforce the judgement.
The judgement, in a suit brought before it by the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its chairman, Barr. Peter Nwaoboshi insists that Ogboru did not comply with statutory requirements of the 2006 Electoral Act and not qualified to have participated in the April 14, 2007 Governorship Election.
Meanwhile, Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru has described the judgement as utterly perverse and ridiculous, adding that they are heading for the Appeal Court to upturn the judgement.
Ogboru, who reacted through his younger brother, Turner Ogboru said “The judgement that Chief Ogboru did not submit his nomination form 120 days to the day of the election is utterly perverse and ridiculous because both Emmanuel Uduaghan and Ovedje Ogboru met the stipulated guidelines during the elections in question. It is not a judgement you are going to enforce because we will appeal it. We are still at the elections petition tribunal.
“Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru was duly nominated by 50 registered members of the Democratic People’s Party (DPP) and the Form EC4B6 was submitted 120 days before the election. The forms were dispatched from INEC on February 6, 2007. Uduaghan submitted his nomination form on February 9, 2007 while Ogboru submitted his nomination form on February 11, 2007. None of these were submitted before February 15, 2007. The form for nomination of candidates is not required by any law to be submitted 120 days to any election. What is required to be submitted 120 days to the time is the personal particulars of the candidate and the affidavit in support.”