The Court of Appeal sitting in Benin, Edo State, today struck out the appeals filed separately by the Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, and the Peoples Democratic Party, challenging the earlier ruling of the Delta State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, Asaba, in their case by the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Olorogun O’tega Emerhor, and the APC, challenging Okowa’s election.
Senator Okowa and the PDP had appealed against the tribunal’s ruling on June 30, which held that all preliminary objections to quash Emerhor’s petition be heard alongside the substantive petition.
Okowa headed for the Appeal Court to challenge the ruling of the tribunal.
But Justice I. M. Saulawa, in his judgement on Wednesday in Okowa’s appeal, marked CA/B/EPT/179/2015, adopted the issues for determination cited by the appellant, which included whether the Chairman of the tribunal, sitting with other members of the panel in delivering the said ruling, did not contravene Paragraph 27 (1) of the 1st Schedule of the Electoral Act, which provides that only the chairman, sitting alone, should entertain interlocutory matters.
The court upheld that the 1st and 2nd respondents’/petitioners’ contention that the paragraph does not confer jurisdiction on the tribunal and that the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act were mere rules of procedure and a breach of it did not raise jurisdictional issue.
It further held that jurisdiction was conferred by the constitution, which provides for the quorum of the tribunal to be the chairman and two other members, as paragraph 27 (1) was incompatible with the provision of Section 285 (4) of the 1999 Constitution.
The tribunal therefore voided the prayer and resolved the issue against the appellants.
Section 258 (4) states that “The quorum of an election tribunal established under this section shall be the Chairman and two other members.”
On the issue of preliminary objections, the Appeal Court upheld the petitioners’ submission that paragraph 12 (5) is clear that objections, forwarded to dismiss the petition, should be held with the hearing of the substantive petition.
It noted that that it was a necessary provision to meet the constitutional requirement of 180 days within which the tribunal is to hear and deliver judgment in an election petition.
Justice Saulawa dismissed the appeal as lacking in merit, with the cost of N50,000 awarded against Okowa.
The court also struck out the appeal of the PDP, marked CA/B/EPT/180/2015, stating that the issues raised were similar to the sister appeal.
The judge added that it (the appeal) had become mere academic and accordingly struck it out.