Election Petition: Tribunal set to hear Ogboru Amidst Hitches
The recent paralysis witnessed in court activities throughout Delta state following a strike action by judiciary workers may have vanished following the preparedness of the state Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal to commence sitting in Asaba, Delta state. The Tribunal will on Monday, May 23, 2011, among other sundry petitions, handle that of Chief Great Ogboru, Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) governorship candidate whose petition seeks to challenge the electoral victory of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the April 26 poll.
The strike action by the judiciary workers had halted the sitting of the Delta state election petition tribunal, as the tribunal members who were to commence sitting were caught unawares by the workers' action when the workers allegedly locked the premises and announced that the strike would be indefinite.
Secretary to the tribunal, Deborah Musa said 'it took several hours of begging before the striking workers allowed the members to retrieve their files and other materials'. While the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Delta state blamed the striking union for being hasty in embarking on the strike, the association also described as unfortunate the state government's posture in the matter, as it did not show understanding and responsibility to the union's agitation.
The Warri branch of the NBA, through its Chairman, Mr Gweke Akudihor and Publicity Secretary, Francis Okala, however appealed to the striking Judiciary Staff in Delta state to shelve the strike action, even as the Vice-Chairman of the Judiciary Workers Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), James Onanowe, said the strike was to back the demand for the inclusion of the workers in the harmonised public service salary.
Sources told Huhuonline.com that Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan had to rise up to the challenge by striking a negotiation deal with the judiciary workers union in the state, especially to dissociate himself from claims in certain quarters that he may have been deliberately responsible for the strike so that the Tribunal will not sit to consider petitions filed against him. Meanwhile, the Democratic Peoples Party's governorship candidate in the April 26 election, Chief Great Ogboru, had filed a petition before the Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal in Asaba, asking the panel to declare him the duly elected governor of Delta State.
The Delta state DPP chairman, Chief Tony Ezeagwu had disclosed that the party has raised two legal teams to challenge the election of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan at the January 6 rerun and April 26 gubernatorial elections in the state. The two petitions, according to the state chairman of the DPP, Chief Tony Ezeagwu, would come up for hearing in Asaba, as soon as the election tribunal commence sitting. This development is coming on the heels of a strong determination by the Delta state PDP Campaign Council to trounce all efforts of the DPP and its gubernatorial candidate at the Election Petition Tribunal.
Director General of the PDP Campaign Council, Chief Paulinus Akpeki has said that the claims by the DPP are inconsequential and will not be seen as sensible under the point of law, since according to him, the petition of Chief Great Ogboru, DPP governorship candidate in the last elections are full of 'falsehood in the face of truth'.
In the petition, numbered EPT/DT/GOV/04/201, Ogboru argued that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) wrongfully declared Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) winner of the April 26, 2011 governorship election with 525,793 votes against his (Uduaghan's) actual votes of 233,953. 'INEC arbitrarily allocated an additional 291,840 unlawful votes to the incumbent governor and the PDP in order to give them an unmerited favour not derived from the mandate of the electorate of Delta State.
'400,058 votes were the highest lawful votes scored by any candidate in the April 26, 2011 governorship election conducted by INEC in Delta, and I ought to be declared by INEC as the duly elected Governor of Delta State.
'It is my considered opinion that INEC's 'Greek gift' of 33,776 are toxic and these toxic votes were just added to my votes in order to create the impression that I am also a beneficiary of rigging. They were not the votes of the electorate in Delta State.
'My petition seeks to rely extensively on scientific methods, expert positions, credible and unshakable evidences and erudite legal knowledge to prove the wild and wide rigging by the PDP in the riverine communities of Delta State in the April 26, 2011 election.'
'Against these backgrounds, our petition humbly therefore prays the honourable tribunal to determine and declare that by the lawful votes cast at the election to the office of Governor of Delta State held on Tuesday the 26th of April 2011, Chief Ogboru ought to have been returned and should be returned as the duly elected Governor of Delta State.' Recall that Project 2011 Swift Count, an election observer coalition made up of the Nigerian Bar Association, Transition Monitoring Group, Muslim Women's Association in Nigeria, and Justice Development and Peace/Caritas, had through one of the co-chairs, Comrade Mashood Erubami, revealed that 'The Project reports observer intimidation, harassment, combined with the forceful ban of observers in some local government areas in Delta State. 'Our observers were prevented in 14 per cent of the sampled polling units from observing and as a result Swift Count is not in a position to confidently verify the credibility of the total results for Delta State