By NBF News

The Delta State Governorship Re-run Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Asaba yesterday reserved Monday, July 25, for judgment in a petition brought by the candidate of the Democratic Peoples' Party (DPP), Chief Great Ovadje Ogboru challenging the declaration of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as winner of the re-run election held on January 6, this year.

Chairman of the three-man tribunal, Justice Uzoamaka Ogwuike adjourned the matter for judgment after counsel to the respective parties adopted their written submissions and reply on the point of law.

In his submission, counsel to the first respondent, Wole Olanipekun (SAN) urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition as it constituted an abuse of court process.

He informed the court that a new dimension had been added to the matter following the judgment of the Justice Ibrahim Buba-led Federal High Court, which held that Chief Ogboru was not properly nominated as the candidate of the DPP for the governorship election held on April 14, 2007.

Olanipekun also cited the judgment of the same high court on March 15, which declared that the tenure of office of the elected governor for April 14, 2007 election ended on May 29, 2011 and urged the tribunal to enforce both judgments.

Counsel to the second respondent, Adebayo Adenipekun (SAN) also urged the tribunal to strike out the petition on the ground that the tribunal lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter as it was not properly constituted.

He averred that the tribunal was constituted in accordance with the 1999 Constitution as amended in 2010, which came into effect on January 10, 2010 and therefore could not entertain an election matter in which winner was declared on January 7, 2010.

Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), counsel to the third respondent agreed with the counsel to the first and second respondents for the tribunal to dismiss the petition for lack of merit.

Ikpeazu argued that the pleading of the petitioners was that there was no voting in some parts of some local governments, which he interpreted as an acceptance that voting took place in the said local government areas, adding that 'it is a case of no voting in some areas in which case the burden is squarely on the petitioners to prove.'

While urging the tribunal not to rely on the evidence of the expert witness, Ikpeazu told the court that what the petitioners pleaded was unstamped and unsigned ballot papers 'which they failed to prove.'

In his submission, counsel to the petitioners, Mogbeji Sagay (SAN) urged the tribunal to allow the petition.

He argued that the two judgments of the Federal High Court relied upon by counsel to the first respondent could not be taken by the tribunal on grounds that the proceedings and the judgments were not pleaded and therefore could not form the basis of decision of the tribunal as both judgments were not before the tribunal.

On the issue of lack of jurisdiction on the part of the tribunal raised by counsel to the second respondent, Mr. Sagay argued that it was 'completely outside the four walls of their brief' and urged the tribunal to expunge it from the submissions.

He said the petitioners were able to prove their case against the respondents as the ballot papers were brought before the court but INEC was unable to sort out ballot papers used in the disputed council areas.

Meanwhile, Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru has appealed to his supporters to remain calm following Wednesday's ruling of the Federal High Court, Asaba, that he was not properly nominated for the 2007 election in Delta State.

The Court of Appeal ordered a re-run of the 2007 election after Ogboru's petition succeeded at the tribunal, and his opponent lost the appeal. The re-run election last January is a subject of another petition at the tribunal.

'We would like to appeal to our supporters to remain calm. The tribunal is doing its work. Our supporters have to be watchful so that nobody instigates them. We have been clamouring for peaceful change. We stand by peaceful change,' Chief Ogboru said in a statement.

'Nothing will change our mind about this case. We have the support of the hundreds of thousands of people who voted for us. We cannot let them down. We cannot walk away from the realisation of their wish.

'This case is not about Ogboru or DPP. It is about the wish of the people of Delta State. We cannot disappoint them by walking away as if it does not matter. It would be worse disappointment than the ones they have gone through,' the statement continued.

Ogboru said the subject of the high court ruling was a pre-election matter dating back to 2007, which was already being canvassed at the tribunal.

'We are unshaken in our resolve to prove our case at the tribunal. We will definitely appeal the matter. Yesterday we obtained a stay of execution of the judgement. The case continued at the tribunal.'