17 February 2012

Nigeria: Supreme Court Delivers Judgment in Imo, Delta Guber Appeals March 2

Abuja — The Supreme Court yesterday fixed March 2, 2012 to deliver judgment in an appeal filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) challenging the declaration of Owelle Rochas Okorocha as the winner of the supplementary governorship election conducted in Imo State on May 6th 2011.

Similarly, the apex court adjourned to March 2, 2012 for judgment in the appeal filed before it by Great Ogboru seeking to overturn the January 6, 2011 governorship re-run election in Delta State.

In the case of Imo state governorship poll appeal, the panel of the apex court presided over by Justice Walter Onnoghen set the judgment date (March 2, 2012) after all the parties in the appeal argued and adopted their written brief of argument.

Before the adjournment, counsel to PDP (appellant), Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), informed the court that in their original notice of appeal, they had 12 grounds of appeal and that they have included additional five grounds of appeal totalling 17 grounds.

Besides, he submitted that the candidate of the appellant, Chief Ikedi Ohakim scored over 4, 800 votes and that Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) claimed that the margin was too narrow.

Besides, he told the court that there was a authority of the Supreme Court which says that even one vote can make a candidate win an election against his opponenet.

Besides, he told the court that an appellant should rely on the strength of his case to prove his appeal and not on thw weakness of the respondent's case.

Meanwhile counsel to the Independent National Election Commission, Dr. Alex Izinyon (SAN), told the court that INEC's position was that the election in the areas that was later rejected was inconclusive, "no score, no result".

Against the foregoing, he submitted that the argument that the election was concluded and later cancelled cannot stand.

It would be recalled that Justice Tijani Abdulahi who led four other Justices of the court of appeal sitting in Abuja had in a unanimous decision held that the PDP appeal lacked merit and was therefore dismissed.

The Court subsequently in January this year upheld the election of Okorocha of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).

Specifically, Justice Abdulahi said: "After a careful consideration of the preliminary objection filed by the appellants, we hold that it lacks merit and is hereby dismissed. The appeal also lacks merit and also dismissed with N50, 000 cost against the appellant.

Justice Abdualhi had then reserved the reasons for the decision which he said would be given on a date to be communicated to counsel in the matter.

Great Ogboru, the gubernatorial candidate of the Democratic Peoples' Party (DPP), who earlier at the appeal court lost his petition at the electoral tribunal and court of appeal asked the apex court to hear his case afresh and pronounce him winner of the said January 6, 2011 re-run election in Delta State.

It would be recalled that the re-run election tribunal in Asaba, the state capital, had dismissed the petition of Chief Ogboru on the grounds that the petitioner failed to discharge the onus on him to prove his case beyond reasonable doubts.

The petitioner dragged Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of the People's Democratic Party (PDP), the PDP and INEC-- Ist, 2nd and 3rd respondents respectively--to court, challenging Uduaghan's victory in the election which was dismissed by the Appeal Court sitting in Benin city, Edo State, last November.

Justice Doris Uzoamaka Ugwurike, had in her judgment held , "The burden lies on the petitioner to prove his case beyond all reasonable doubt." Affirming that this was not done, she dismissed the petition.

In persuading the apex court to grant his reliefs and hear the case as if it were a court of appeal under its constitutional powers as enshrined in Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, Counsel to Ogboru, Dr. Joseph Nwobike

told the court to hold that appeal court cannot deliver a valid judgment without giving reasons for same.

He stated that the appeal court delivered its judgment against his client on January 5, 2012 and did not give reasons for it until January 27, 2012 when the time 60 days allowed by the law for him to appeal has elapsed.

He reminded the court that he has only 14 days from the day the judgment was rendered, to appeal and same informed his decision to filed three notices of appeal.

The first appeal was against the decision of appeal court, the second was failure of the court of appeal to give reason for its January 5 within time and that the third notice of appeal was the appeal court rendering of its reason for the said judgment out of the constitutional time allowable for him to appeal.

Thereafter the court consolidated the 1st and 2nd notices of appeal while allowing the 3rd one to stand on its own.

He also told the court that the two appeals so consolidated (SC/18/2012 and SC/18A/2012) were file on the 6th and 18th of January 2012 and that both were within time.

On the other hand, counsel to Governor Uduaghan and INEC, Wole Olanipekun (SAN) and Adebayo Adenipekun (SAN) opposed the submission saying that the appellant does not have any valid appeal before the apex court having not put the grounds of appeal in his 1st appeal-SC/18/2012.

Besides, Wole Olanipekun said the appellant wants the appeal court to arrest its judgment by asking the apex court to hold that not giving reason for its judgment makes the judgment invalid.

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