The Court of Appeal sitting in Benin, on Wednesday struck out two related appeals filed separately by the Delta state Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), against the rulings of the Delta State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal.
Governor Okowa and the PDP had appealed the ruling of the tribunal which had on 30 June, 2015, ruled that all preliminary objections to terminate the petition filed by the APC governorship candidate in the 11 April election, O’tega Emerhor and the All Progressives Congress (APC), be held along side the substantive petition.
The Appellate Court in its unanimous judgment delivered by Justice I.M.M. Saulawa, adopted the issues for determination raised by the appellant, including the issue of whether the Chairman sitting with other members of the tribunal in delivering the said ruling, was not contrary to paragraph 27(1) of the 1st schedule of the Electoral Act, which provides that only the Chairman sitting alone should entertain interlocutory matters.
The court while dismissing the 1st and 2nd Respondents/Petitioners’ contention that paragraph 27(1) does not confer jurisdiction on the Tribunal, held that the 1st schedule to the Electoral Act is mere rules of procedure and breach of it does not raise jurisdictional issue.
Justice Saulawa further held that jurisdiction is conferred by the constitution which provides for the quorum of the tribunal to be the Chairman and two other members, pointing out that paragraph 27(1) of the Electoral Act ultravires the provision of section 285 (4) of the constitution and therefore declared the section void and resolved the issue against the appellants.
The court also on the second issue, upheld the petitioners’ submission that paragraph 12(5) is clear that objections brought to dismiss the petition should be held with the hearing of the substantive petition, stressing that it is a necessary provision to meet with the constitutional requirement of 180 days within which the tribunal is to hear and deliver judgment in an election petition.
The court therefore, dismissed the appeal for lacking merit and awarded a cost of N50,000 against Okowa.
On the PDP appeal, CA/B/EPT/180/2015, the Court stated that the issues raised were similar to the sister appeal, declaring that the appeal has become mere academic and accordingly struck it out.