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Delta Governorship: Incumbent Governor To Know Fate Soon

By Kenneth Orusi, The Nigerian Voice, Asaba
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The sitting governor of Delta state, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, would know his Fate soon if he would continue or vacate the seat for his rival, Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru, of the All Progressives Congress (APC), in the governorship election.

The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Asaba on Wednesday has reserved judgement in the petition filed by the governorship candidate of the All Progressive Congress.

Ogboru, in petition number EPT/DT/GOV/01/2019, is challenging the return of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) in the March 9, 2019 election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

While Okowa is the first respondent, the PDP and INEC are joined as second and third respondents, respectively, in the petition which has Ogboru and APC as first and second petitioners respectively.

Chairman of the three-man tribunal, Justice Suleiman Belgore who adjourned the petition sine die after counsels to the respective parties adopted their final written addresses, said the concerned parties would be communicated at least 24 hours before judgement.

The counsels also argued and adopted their written addresses, affidavit and counter-affidavit for motions that were reserved in the course of proceedings.

In his final written address dated August 2 and filed same date, and reply on point of law dated August 14 and filed same date, counsel to the first respondent, D.D. Dodo (SAN) urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition, arguing that it was premised on a false footing, hence, bound to collapse.

Mr. Dodo insisted that the petition was crafted and presented without reference to the import and intendment of Section 49 of Electoral Act, 2010, noting that the said section of the law had neither be repealed nor deleted in subsequent amendments to the enabling law.

Aligning himself with Dodo, counsel to the second respondent, A.T. Kehinde who also adopted his final written address dated and filed on August 3 and the reply on point of law dated August 13 and filed August 14, urged the court to dismissed the petition for being incompetent and fraught with inadequacies.

"The petition is based on non-compliance with Electoral Act. However, in the body of the petition and evidence led by petitioners, they did a 180 degree summersault and introduced corrupt practices that the votes were manipulate and results allocated by the third respondent in favour of the first respondent.

"The petitioners having not sort the leave of the tribunal to severe these heads of claims in line with the decision in the case of Udom vs Umana, the petition has presently constituted is incurably incompetent, and we urged the tribunal to so hold", Kehinde stated.

Third respondent's counsel, John Olusola Bayese adopted his final written address dated August 2 and filed on August 3, and the reply on the point of law dated and filed on August 14 before urging the tribunal to dismiss the completely petition.

Bayese insisted that the petition "has suffered a shipwreck. The petition in a nutshell is based on the issue of card reader but nothing has changed in the nation's electoral jurisprudence. The petitioners tried to be ingenious but ingenuity does not take the place of the law".

But counsel to the petitioners, Nichols Ichekor who adopted his 40-paged final written address dated and filed on August 10, urged the tribunal to grant the prayers of the petition which is to declare the first petitioner winner for scoring the highest number of valid votes cast at the election.

Ichekor argued that the total votes of 925,274 credited to the first respondent exceeded the accreditation threshold as reflected by the smart card reader machine which had 757,784 as the total number of accredited voters for the election.

He insisted that the final score of the respondent was as a result of unlawful votes allocated to him by the third respondent, describing it as "anomaly and a symptom of a manipulated result. The allocation is a ground for non-compliance".