The Court of Appeal in Abuja has issued a significant ruling, directing the Delta State governorship Election Petitions Tribunal to resume hearings on the suit brought forward by Kennedy Pela, the candidate of the Labour Party (LP).
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Sheriff Oborevwori, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as the winner of the March 18 election in Delta State. Oborevwori secured 360,234 votes, emerging victorious over his closest rival, Ovie Omo-Agege of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who garnered 240,229 votes. Pela, the LP candidate, secured the third position with 48,027 votes, while Great Ogboru of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) came fourth with 11,021 votes.
In response to the outcome, Pela and the LP filed a petition challenging the election results on several grounds, including the non-qualification of the first and second-place candidates, corrupt practices, and non-compliance with the Electoral Act. They requested that the tribunal either declare Pela the winner or annul the election and conduct a fresh one.
However, during the pre-hearing stage, Damian Dodo, the lead counsel to the governor and his deputy, argued that the LP’s petition had been abandoned. Dodo contended that the petitioner had failed to take advantage of the seven-day window for a pre-hearing notice and had not applied for another pre-hearing notice, rendering the petition abandoned. He further stated that the petitioner had applied for pre-hearing notice on May 19 before the close of pleadings, making the petition premature, incompetent, and subject to dismissal.
Chairperson of the tribunal’s three-member panel, C.H Ahuchaogu, subsequently dismissed Pela’s petition based on the application.
In response to this ruling, Pela and the LP proceeded to the Court of Appeal, seeking a reversal of the decision.
In his petition, Pela, represented by counsel, challenged the outcome of the 2023 governorship election in Delta State and sought leave of the tribunal to nullify the declaration of Oborevwori as the Delta State governor. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was named as the 1st respondent, with Governor Oborevwori and his Deputy, Monday Onyeme, as the 2nd and 3rd respondents, respectively. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was the 4th respondent.
The Court of Appeal, in delivering its judgment on the appeal, upheld the prayers of the appellants and ordered that the petition be returned to the tribunal for further proceedings, emphasizing that it should be heard on its merit.