The Court of Appeal in Abuja has directed the Delta State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in Asaba to reconsider the case of Ken Pela, the Labour Party’s governorship candidate.
Pela’s petition aims to reverse the election of Governor Sheriff Oborevwori.
The Court of Appeal found fault with the tribunal’s earlier decision to dismiss Pela’s petition based on the timing of filing the pre-hearing notice. The three-member appellate panel ruled that the tribunal should reexamine the case based on its substance.
In delivering the verdict on the petition, the Chairperson of the Panel, Justice C.H Ahuchaogu, declared that the petition lacked validity and blatantly contravened paragraph 18 subsection 1 of the 4th Schedule to the Electoral Act 2022.
The three-member panel of the tribunal in July, held that “the petition was incompetent” and constituted “a flagrant violation of…Electoral Act 2022.”
The tribunal clarified that the reason for the dismissal was Pela’s abandonment of his petition.
Pela, in his petition identified as EPT/DL/GOV/01/23, had taken extensive measures to contest the results of the governorship election in Delta that occurred on March 18, 2023. He sought the tribunal’s permission to reverse the declaration of Oborevwori as the governor of the state.
The petition included the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the primary respondent, while Governor Sheriff Oborevwori and Deputy Governor Monday Onyeme were named as the second and third respondents. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was listed as the fourth respondent.
Unhappy with the ruling, Pela turned to the Court of Appeal, requesting its intervention to compel the tribunal to consider his case based on its substance.
In a twist of events on Thursday, he obtained permission to resume proceedings at the Delta State Governorship Tribunal.
Oborevwori emerged victorious in the March governorship election, representing the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The governor achieved a total of 360,234 votes, surpassing his nearest rival Ovie Omo-Agege from the All Progressives Party (APC), who garnered 240,229 votes.
Pela secured the third position with 48,027 votes, but he implored the court to invalidate Mr. Oborevwori’s triumph due to alleged non-qualification and violation of the Electoral Act during the election conducted by Nigeria’s electoral commission, INEC.
After INEC officially declared Oborevwori as the election winner, Pela initiated legal action with the aim of overturning the governor’s victory.
In the meantime, the Delta State Government issued a response on Thursday, dismissing as false the news claiming that an Appeal Court had removed Governor Sheriff Oborevwori from office.
The government clarified that, contrary to the reports, the Appeal Court session held in Abuja did not invalidate Governor Oborevwori’s election, as speculated by the Labour Party’s Governorship Candidate, Pela.
Addressing the matter, Sir Festus Ahon, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, explained that the Appeal Court had solely directed the tribunal to consider the case.
Ahon’s statement read:
“We have been inundated by reports from a section of the media that the Appeal Court had declared Mr Ken Pela of the Labour Party as winner of the 2023 Governorship election in Delta State.
“The report is nothing but fake news as the Appellate Court only ordered the tribunal to hear the case.
“From the results declared by the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, it was obvious that the Labour Party did not win the election therefore couldn’t have won in court.
“Our people came out in large numbers to elect Governor Sheriff Oborevwori and they are happy with him. We, therefore, urge Party faithful and Deltans to disregard the said reports as it was a concoction from the Labour Party and their followers.
“We also urge Deltans to remain calm. As at the time of the fake news, Governor Oborevwori was busy inspecting various ongoing projects within Asaba and its environs. He is focused on delivering dividends of democracy to the people of the state and would not be distracted by the rumour mills.”
He stated that their legal team was meticulously analyzing the verdict from the Appeal Court to ascertain the suitable course of action to pursue.