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Delta south: Onowakpo, Diden, know fate soon as tribunal reserves judgement

Jan 18, 2024Jan 18, 2024

4th August 2023

From Paul Osuyi, Asaba

The National Assembly election petitions tribunal sitting in Asaba, Delta State, on Friday, reserved judgement in the petition filed by Michael Diden of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

Diden is challenging the declaration of Joel Onowakpo of the All Progressive Congress (APC) as winner of the February 25 Delta south senatorial district election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The three-member tribunal headed by Justice Cathrine Ogunsola, adjourned for judgement after parties in the petition adopted their written addresses.

Counsel to the first respondent which is INEC, Lukeman Fagbemi, who filed a preliminary application, adopted same and his final written address.

Fagbemi urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition on the grounds that relevant parties were not properly joined.

He said the petitioners admitted that the elections held peacefully within the senatorial district, noting however that they could only tender result particularly for the contentious Bowen Ward 06 in Warri South Local Government Area that was not supported by accreditation.

Counsel to the second respondent (Sen. Onowakpo), Robert Emukperuo, also urged the tribunal to strike out the petition, describing it as an abuse of judicial process

Emukperuo stated that Section 64 (4 – 9) of the Electoral Act clearly provides that collation of final result must be based on the verification of polling units result which must be supported by the number of accredited voters.

Also, counsel to the third respondent which is APC, Habeeb Lawal who held the brief of C.I. Okpoko, asked the tribunal to throw out the petition with a punitive cost.

Lawal insisted that the petitioners cannot hide under the cover of number of collected Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) in Bowen Ward 06 to prove that there was no over voting in the critical area .

He added that the result from Bowen Ward 06 clearly exceeded the number of accredited voters, noting that it was a clear case of over voting and that the BVAS machine was willfully by-passed during accreditation.

In his own submission, counsel to the petitioners’, Ayo Asala, urged the tribunal to allow the petition, even as he asked that the application filed by the third respondent seeking preliminary dismissal of the main petition, should be struck out for abuse of judicial process.

Asala urged the tribunal to grant the relief sought which is to declare the first petitioner winner by validating the result of Warri South which was earlier cancelled.

In the alternative, Asala urged the panel of justices to declare the election inconclusive and order a supplementary poll for the contentious Warri South council area.

He said the petition was not seeking to invalidate the result of the eight local government areas in the district, arguing that there was collation of result for Warri South which was also uploaded to the INEC IREV portal.

Asala further contended that a subpoened witness from INEC confirmed the result for Warri South, noting that the claim that electoral materials were not distributed in Warri South was not sustainable in law.

He also argued that the result of the presidential and Hose of Representatives elections which held simultaneously with that of the Senate, were not cancelled, adding that it was the same process of accreditation and voting that applied for the three elections.

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