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Delta@28: ‘Despite strides made, there is room for improvement’

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• House of Assembly tribunal adjourns, reserves ruling for Warri North petition
As Delta State rolled out the drums in celebration of its creation yesterday, August 27, the former Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Comrade Ovuozourie Macaulay, has declared that despite strides achieved so far in developing the state, there was room for improvement. Macaulay stated this in his goodwill message to residents of the ‘Big Heart’ state, noting that it was politically correct for Deltans to celebrate their heritage at 28.

In a statement made available by his Media Assistant, Mr. Iteveh Ekpokpobe, Macaulay said at its creation Delta State had the challenge of divisiveness, as many stakeholders did not accept the state for what it eventually became.

According to him, “Deltans have reasons to throw confetti for the reason that the journey has been worthwhile. We must thank God that our state has come to be. The creation of the state came with a lot of challenges. For people like me who were there at the creation, I give God the glory that we have it. There was this dichotomy when the state started. I know people who turned down appointments because they did not accept the state.

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“At that time, it was just one road running through Asaba that took barely 10 minutes to get round. Today, Asaba is one of the fastest developing capital cities in Nigeria. Today, we are all putting hands together to develop the state and shoving aside the perceived differences between us as a people. We have an airport now, our university and other institutions are growing well.”

Also for Isoko-born politician, “We cannot forget the pioneer governor, Chief Felix Ibru, who took all the bullets to bring the state together for the first time. We must also commend the military governors for their efforts. At every stage, those who had the opportunity to govern this state chipped in a block or two to get the state to where it is now. If you look at the journey so far, you will agree that Deltans have every reason to say, ‘thank you God’ and to celebrate.”

The veteran labour leader also commended other administrators who held the helm of affairs of the state since creation, adding that their efforts have paid off, adding, “Particularly, we must commend such leaders as Chief James Ibori, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan and Senator Ifeanyi Okowa who have turned the state to what it is now.”

In a related development, the Legislative House Election Tribunal Holden at Asaba yesterday concluded hearing on the petition between Hon. David Olayinka Atie and All Progressive Congress (APC), petitioners and Hon. Alfred Oluwasanumi Martins, People Democratic Party (PDP), and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), who are respondent, with a promise to communicate both parties.

That ruling by Justice E. A. Ngene-led tribunal, with Justice Edem Ita Kooffreh, Justice (Dr.) O. S. Kuteyi as members, elicited the fire works that began with substantive prayers by the petitioners since March 29 to an end, as both parties have to wait till September 15 to know their fate.

The three issues for determination, which are slightly varied from the earlier ones submitted at the end of pre-hearing sessions, are “Whether the presumption of irregularities in law in favour of exhibit P7 series and R13 series are not sufficiently rebutted by the uncontroverted contents of exhibits P6 and exhibit P2 series whose own presumption of irregularities was not questioned by the petitioners and respondents in any manner whatsoever of non-compliance?”

Secondly, whether there is any credible evidence from the respondents to be scaled against the overwhelming evidence tendered by the petitioners as not to lead to the upholding of petitioners’ case? And lastly, “whether, the totality of evidence adduced by the petitioners in support of the petition is not credible enough and beyond the minimum required in civil cases to grant the relief sought by the petitioners as the winner of the election?”

Speaking exclusively with The Guardian at the end of the concluding session, one of the counsels to the petitioners, Mr. Gibson Akporehe, commended the justices of the tribunal for their firm handling of proceeding, saying, “Our expectation is that the justices of the honourable tribunal demonstrated scholarship in the handling of the proceedings, and we expect same to reflect in their judgment in favour of APC.

“The declaration of INEC in returning Honourable Martins as the winner of Warri North House of Assembly election be set aside. And that the court should also set aside his certificate of return, and further want the court to declare Hon. David Olayinka Atie as the winner of that election, based on the lawful votes available”.

His points of argument is, “By the evidence we provided, the petitioners have been able to prove to the court that Hon. Atie of the APC has a total of 5,949 votes, while Martin’s valid votes were 5,544, as proven by both parties’ oral and documented evidence tendered in court, and these were not rebutted by the respondents”.

He further cited relevant authorities, which he said the court could use in granting the reliefs they are seeking. He cited the provisions of the Electoral Act as amended, stressing that of all the relevant sections, “Only a section beclouds the issue, which is section 49 sub-section 2 of the Electoral Act that the respondents are seeking refuge from. Meanwhile, we are relying on 73 and 52 sub-section 2 of the Electoral Act, as well as section 78 and 160 of 1999 constitution that gives INEC unfettered power to issue guidelines.”

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