Great Ogboru closes petition with documents as Ayika defends mandate
• Okowa begins defence today
The Delta State All Progressive Congress (APC) governorship candidate, Chief Great Ogboru, has submitted a total of 5,375,672 documents to the Justice Suleiman Belgore-led State Elections Petition Tribunal Panel 1 siting in Asaba. Ogboru is challenging the declaration of Senator Ifeanyi Okowa as winner of the March 9, 2019 governorship polls by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Among the petitioner’s prayers are a declaration that the total votes cast for him should be 215,938, while that of the first respondent, (Okowa) and second respondent, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) should be 155,192 votes, while the certificate of return issued to the first and second respondents be declared null and void.
This is just as the member representing Anaocha/Dunukofia/Njikoka Federal Constituency of Anambra State, Hon. Valentine Ayika, has told the Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Awka that there was no ambiguity over his candidacy of his party, the PDP, in the February 23 election. Ayika, who made the submission as he opened his defence at tribunal, disclosed that he bought expression of interest form, nomination form, contested the PDP primary election and scored 252 votes to emerge flag bearer.
He tendered documents including PDP’s membership card, result of PDP primary election, letter of PDP instructing Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to recognise him as its candidate, and the report of PDP primary election panel among others.
Ayika, who was led in evidence by his counsel, Ikechukwu Ezechukwu, added that his party submitted his name alongside all other candidates who won primary election in Anambra on October 18 and started his campaigns when INEC lifted the ban sometime in November 2018.But, Mr. Dozie Nwankwo, candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) has challenged Ayika’s victory on the grounds that PDP did not sponsor him and that INEC did not publish his name as PDP’s candidate. Nwankwo, in a petition marked EPT/AN/HR/07/2019 with Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as co-defendants, said INEC declared PDP winner and not the candidate.
Ayika further tendered a letter from the national headquarters of PDP urging INEC to continue to recognise him as its candidate for Anaocha/Dunukofia/Njikoka Federal Constituency as earlier submitted to the commission in the election in question. Ayika, however, said upon noticing that his name was not included in the list of candidates, he went to INEC Head of Legal Department who told him that he should sort out the issue with his party.
He further said he met PDP’s National Organising Secretary who directed that a letter should be written to INEC asking the commission to continue recognising him as the candidate. He insisted that PDP wrote the letter on January 22, five days after the deadline for submission of names, which elapsed on January 17.
According to him, “I started campaigning in November 2018 up till February 14 before continuing after the election was postponed and concluded on February 21, in line with the Electoral Act”.
Counsel to Nwankwo, J.O. Olatoke argued that neither Ayika of the PDP filed an action against the non-inclusion of Ayika’s name in the final list used for the election, pointing out that Ayika was not mentioned in the Supreme Court judgment which the witness said his name could not have been mentioned because he was not a party in the suit.
The petitioner’s counsel told journalists after the session that PDP did not contest the election as it had no candidate as at the time of the election, saying that INEC did not put any candidate’s name in the column of PDP, which was filled with the indication ‘court order, party yet to submit name of candidate.’
Similarly, the Delta State chapter of APC and its gubernatorial candidate in the March 9, 2019 election, Chief Ogboru, while closing their case presented 5,375,672 documentary evidence and twenty witnesses at the state governorship election petitions tribunal.
Apart from the witnesses the petitioners also tendered voter registers and results from polling units up to the state level (EC8A’s to EC8E’s) in proof of their case that the governorship election was rigged by PDP.
However, the 1st Respondent, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, who was expected to open his defence on July 17, 2019, pleaded for time to enable him study the case, even as hearing of the defence was fixed for today, July 23, 2019.
But notwithstanding the application, the tribunal insisted that the 1st respondent’s time started running from July 17, 2019 meaning that when the tribunal re-convenes today, Okowa, would be left with only five days for his defence instead of the ten days originally allotted to him.
In a related development, a member of APC recently described the July 8 pronouncement by Justice Belgore as a parody of justice. The tribunal: had ruled that APC cannot tender certified true copies, CTC of INEC documents without concurrence of PDP.
The chieftain, who is a member of the Ogboru team, confided in The Guardian, saying: “Against the clear provisions of the Evidence Act and decided cases of at superior courts, the Delta State Governorship Election Tribunal sitting in Asaba had in a most absurd judicial travesty delivered a ruling that the petitioners, Chief Ogboru and the APC cannot tender certified true copies (CTCs) of public (INEC) documents without the CTCs being identified by all the Respondents; Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, the PDP and INEC.”
“This, according to the justices is because paragraph 6 of the Pre-hearing Report stated so. By this curious ruling, the Tribunal led by Justice Belgore has elevated the Pre-hearing Report which is a decision of the Tribunal higher than the decisions of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal cited to them and against all known principles of law on admissibility of documens, especially certified true copies”, he intoned.