The Court of Appeal in Abuja has issued a significant order directing the Delta State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal to resume the hearing of a suit filed by Kennedy Pela, the candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in the state’s gubernatorial election.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had previously 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. Kennedy Pela, the LP candidate, finished third with 48,027 votes, while Great Ogboru of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) came fourth with 11,021 votes.
Pela and the LP subsequently filed a petition challenging the election results on various grounds, including the alleged non-qualification of the candidates who came in first and second, corrupt practices, and non-compliance with the Electoral Act. They sought a declaration of Pela as the election winner or, alternatively, the annulment of the election and the organization of a fresh one.
During the pre-hearing stage of the case, Damian Dodo, the lead counsel to the governor and his deputy, argued that the LP’s petition had been abandoned. Dodo claimed that the petitioner had not taken advantage of the seven-day window for a pre-hearing notice and had also failed to apply for another pre-hearing notice, rendering the petition abandoned. He further argued that the petitioner had applied for pre-hearing notice before the close of pleadings on May 19, making the petition premature and incompetent.
The Delta State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, chaired by C.H Ahuchaogu, subsequently dismissed Pela’s petition based on these arguments.
Dissatisfied with the ruling, the petitioners escalated the matter to the Court of Appeal.
In his petition, Mr. Pela sought to challenge the outcome of the 2023 governorship election in Delta State and requested permission from the tribunal to nullify the declaration of Oborevwori as the governor. INEC was named as the 1st respondent, while Governor Oborevwori and his Deputy, Monday Onyeme, were the 2nd and 3rd respondents, respectively, with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the 4th respondent.
The Court of Appeal, in its judgment on the appeal, granted the appellants’ prayers and directed that the petition be returned to the tribunal for a full hearing on its merits.