On Monday October 26, 2015, the Delta State Governorship election tribunal sitting in Asaba with Justice Nasiru Gummi as Chairman, delivered its much anticipated verdict in the case of our Party and Candidate, Olorogun O'tega Emerhor's challenge to the declaration of Dr Ifeanyi Okowa as Governor of Delta State in the April 11 2015 governorship election in the state.
Those who have been following the fireworks of the legal proceedings of the tribunal and indeed all progressive Deltans and Nigerians were shocked at the unexpected verdict and wondered out quite loudly how the PANEL managed the trick of pulling Okowa/PDP from the jaws of a loss and to award them victory in the circumstances of the case!
Although we as a Party had given our initial reaction where we generally condemned the verdict as a grave injustice and an assault on the rule of law, we had refrained from going into the specifics of the case until we are fully acquainted with the facts of the untoward ruling. Having now obtained the certified true copy of and thoroughly reviewed the unfortunate ruling of the tribunal, we can now react as follows:
1) We condemn in the strongest of terms, the unfortunate judgment of the Justice Gummi panel and denounce it as a grave travesty of justice and a major set back to the rule of law and the ongoing regime of the dismantling of impunity in our electoral process!
2) Justice Gummi delivered a judgment that can only be described as cunning, patronising and insulting to discerning legal minds! The judgment fed on deception, pretenses and subterfuge! Generally, the panel pretended to uphold the core case of the petitioners but went ahead to somersault against them. This they did by wittingly and pretentiously accepting and ruling as follows;
a) That INEC has powers to make guidelines for the elections including the designation of Card Readers for mandatory use in the elections.
b) That the non use of card readers and/or non compliance with INEC guidelines is sufficient ground to prove non compliance with the Electoral Act which is a firm ground for cancellation of an election as is the plea of the petitioners!
3) In spite of the above rulings which ORDINARILY appear FAVORABLE to the PETITIONERS, the PANEL went ahead to play DEFENCE on behalf of the RESPONDENTS! The three (3) respondents, Okowa, PDP and INEC in their pleading and witnesses statements before the panel, had admitted an argued that "INEC guidelines were mere instructions and the use of card readers was ultra vires to the Electoral Act, that the card readers failed during election operation and that they resorted to manual accreditation and lawfully so as that is what is recognised by the Electoral Act."
The star witness of the 1st respondent and secretary to the state government, Hon Agas was on record to have stated this position in his disposition and verbal testimony where he further confirm the fact that the respondents resorted to manual accreditation upon the failure of the card readers!
How come then did the panel held that " no evidence was adduced to show that manual accreditation took place"? In law, do you require further evidence to substantiate an admitted fact? To further HELP the respondents, the panel went on to dismiss Hon Agas crucial admission and evidence as hearsay! Wonderful!
Panel helping respondents to expunge evidence of non compliance with INEC guidelines/ electoral law! HOW ON EARTH THE PANEL ARRIVE AT THE CONCLUSION THAT NO MANUAL ACCREDITATION TOOK PLACE IN DELTA STATE ELECTIONS? CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT? This must be the N3 billion Question!
4) Going further to HELP the respondents, the panel went on to DISCREDIT the certified card readers accreditation report admitted as exhibit from INEC when it ruled that " THERE IS UNCERTAINTY AS TO WHETHER THE ADMITTED CARD READERS ACCREDITATION REPORT CAPTURES ALL OF THE ACCREDITED VOTERS"! How did the tribunal arrived at this ruling? The respondents NEVER at anytime pleaded nor canvassed this position.
The panel claims that petitioners' subpoenaed INEC ICT witness Mrs Abimbola oladunjoye agreed under cross examination that " it could be PROBABLE for accredited voters for upload to the server in abuja to still be outstanding as at May 29, (six clear weeks after the April 11 elections) when the server was shut down".
The same witness was, however, categorical in her recorded testimony that the state offices where constantly supervised by INEC head office to ensure that all data were uploaded, that in the case of Delta, there is no shred of evidence or communication to indicate that any such data upload was outstanding as the time the server was shut!
Yet, it was more appealing to the panel to latch on the word "PROBABLE" and rule that the certified true copy of card readers accreditation report as at August 13th that showed accreditation figure of 715,392 as against only Okowa scoring 724, 680 was POSSIBLY INCOMPLETE and may, therefore, not be relied upon to cancel Okowa's election! AMERICA WONDER!
5) Not stopping there, the panel dug deeper and went for the jugular of the petitioners' case. The petitioners had through its star witness Barr Ore Ohimor, testified and placed before the tribunal an analysis of over voting being a comparison of card readers accreditation per polling units and form EC8A results from the same units.
This analysis which was admitted as an exhibit showed over voting in 1,847 polling units or 61% of the 3, 329 polling units across the 25 local government areas of the state as captured in the accreditation report! Over voting in 61% of polling units? And what did the panel do? In order to HELP the RESPONDENTS further, the panel dramatically decided to ruled to EXPUNGE Barr Ohimor's analysis from the tribunal proceedings! And why? That the fatal analysis was only front loaded with the reply of the petitioners to the respondents and ought to have been front loaded with the original petition! WHOW! TECHNICALITY UPON TECHNICALITY!
6) Ultimately, the panel had to contradict itself to provide the FINAL HELP to the respondents! The respondents have argued for the dismissal of the petitioners' case on the point of law that only one of the petitioners signed the petition. The petitioners relied on the appeal court case of IBRAHIM V SHERIFF ( 2002) which was the subsisting legal position that allow any one signatory to sign unbehalf of all petitioners. The respondents, however, resorted to a recent case of BALOGUN V AKPATASON ( August 2015 ) decided after the petitioners' case has been instituted!
The PANEL, knowing they where about to take a risky plunge first tried to wet the grounds! Now hear the panel " ......although if we HAD an OPTION as to which to adopt between Balogun v Akpatason and Ibrahim v Sheriff, we would certainly have PREFERRED Ibrahim v Sheriff because we FEEL it ACCORDS with what is FAIR and JUST in the circumstances of the petition...." So what did the panel rule? Your guess is as good as mine! They rule for the respondents against their FEELING of what ACCORDS with what is FAIR and JUST!
As you can see from the foregoing, the petitioners lost the case to the PANEL and NOT Okowa and PDP! Which is why they should be mindful of their celebration which shall be very short live! APC Delta state roundly REJECTS this evil judgement which was clearly PROCURE by means other than legal! This is a daylight robbery with too many finger prints left behind. Our legal teams already have our instructions and we will surely meet Okowa and PDP and test this robbery at the appeal court! APC SHALL LAUGH LAST!
In the meantime, we will like to use this opportunity to appeal to our APC party faithfuls, supporters and well wishers to be calm and be of high spirit! The end of PDP 16 plus years of misrule in Delta is insight! Please be reminded that as we are about to turn the corner, it may appears to get tougher; that it truly gets darkest before dawn!
Also please be comforted and assured that at the Supreme Court, it shall be the same court that will decide the fates of Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Delta State! At that point, it will be: ONE COURT, SAME FACTS, SAME JUDGEMENT! No Shaking! VICTORY IS NEAR!
GOD BLESS APC!
GOD BLESS DELTA STATE!
GOD BLESS NIGERIA!
(PROPHET JONES ODE ERUE)
APC Delta State Chapter.