By Onomiguren Agbamu
The Delta State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Asaba, has affirmed Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori as the duly elected Governor of the state.
Delivering judgement on Friday, the three-member panel of the tribunal led by Justice C.H. Ahuchaogu dismissed the petition filed by the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege for want of merit.
The tribunal held that the petitioners failed to prove allegations of non-compliance with the Electoral Act and overvoting beyond reasonable doubt.
The Independent National Electoral Commission had declared Governor Sheriff Oborevwori of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) winner of the March 18 Governorship election with 360,234 votes.
Omo-Agege of the APC came second with 240,229 votes while Labour Party’s Ken Pela came a distant third with 48,047 votes.
On the issue of overvoting, the tribunal held that to prove overvoting, a BVAS report must be produced. Leave was granted petitioner to inspect BVAS but no BVAS report was provided.
“Tribunal wonders why the petitioners failed to produce BVAS report. The tribunal agrees with the respondents’ argument. By Supreme Court judgement, BVAS is mandatory to prove to overvote.
“BVAS not produced but they tried to use other documents. The petitioner cannot circumvent the BVAS, as a report of examination of back end server cannot replace the BVAS. This report is held to be irrelevant. Flowing from above, the report is inadmissible to prove overvoting.
The tribunal held that the fulcrum of proof of overvoting is the BVAS. The petitioner did not plead extract from BVAS and so could not tender the same.
“Any evidence given by anyone who was not at the polling units is mere hearsay. Tribunal wonders why their agents at the polling units were not called.
“No evidence of wrongful entries was led by the petitioner. An election cannot be nullified if it appears to the tribunal that it was conducted in substantial compliance. Tribunal cannot go out to find evidence for noncompliance”.
On the issue of non-compliance, the tribunal said the petitioner jettisoned the provisions of the law to prove non-compliance in every unit.
“A petitioner who alleges noncompliance must prove it polling unit by polling unit. Petitioner relied on only PW1 who was not even in any of the units. They can only be said to purport. In sum, the petitioner failed to prove noncompliance”.
On the allegations of corrupt practices, the tribunal said no evidence was led as to who committed the crime and no evidence led as to how the allegations affected the outcome of the election.
The tribunal held that petitioners gave particulars of inflated figures but failed to show how it affected the result.
“The tribunal finds that the inflation is of no consequence and will not affect the result if removed. Issue resolved in favor of respondents.
“Not duly elected by the majority of lawful votes cast in the election. The petitioner was not able to strictly prove this. Considering earlier findings on the other grounds of the petitioner, this ground of the petition is bound to fail and is held as failed.
“The petitioner led no evidence as to the votes that are unlawful and should be reduced. They complained of an unascertained number of votes.
“Pleadings where no evidence is led amounts to no issue. They abandoned the case and sought to rely on the tribunal. This approach lacks credibility. Issue resolved in favour of respondents.
“The case of petitioner based essentially on hearsay evidence that is legally inadmissible. They have led no credible and indubitable evidence.
“Accordingly, there was even no need for the respondents to lead any evidence to disprove a collapsed case. The case is devoid of merit and I affirm the declaration of INEC and return the respondents as duly elected.
In a related development, the Tribunal also dismissed the petitions brought before it by Labour Party’s Ken Pela and Chief Kenneth Gbagi of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) for their inability to prove their allegations of over voting amongst others.
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