That was the elucidating statement of Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria, in his inaugural address, titled “The New Dawn”, as the President-Elect of Nigeria on May 29, 1999 in Abuja; a statement which depicts the widespread apathy of the public towards government owing to the totalitarian gangsterish approach of the succeeding military Juntas in Nigeria, particularly the despicable Abacha Regime that inhumanly dragged the country uncontrollably towards the precipice of a total collapse of all government machinery, before the divine intervention that halted the horrifying drift.
However, 13 years into the then new-found democracy in Nigeria, Obasanjo’s espousal of the need to restore public trust and confidence in governance of the country has become even more relevant with the unfortunate recurring policy somersault of government.
But what is government? Yes, it may sound elementary to seek a definition of the ubiquitous term. However such common words as government, democracy and representation, etc have been taken for granted so much that a greater population of the public do not know the positive or negative impact of the application of the terms in the life of the people.
The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of the English Language defines ‘Government’ as “a particular system or method of controlling the activities or the manner of controlling a country; the group of people who are responsible for controlling a country or state.” The foregoing definitions imply, therefore, that government is a systematic approach by the people to rule or govern themselves; a systematic methodology to adequately harness the potentials of the earth by the people for their survival.
In the Greek world, it was possible for all the citizens of Greece to gather at the market place to formulate polices and to decide on how best to execute such decisions for their betterment. However, with the growth in population, it became increasingly necessary to adopt a more practicable and efficient system of formulating such policies since it was observed that less would be accomplished with all the citizens gathered for such an assignment. Hence, a few citizens were chosen to represent the entire citizens in the process of policy formulation and implementation in the country.
That was the beginning of representative government which is basically democratic in that the representatives who could be upheld or removed must be elected on specified terms by the people to ensure the will and welfare of the people. Therefore, government in its theoretical configuration is totally under the control of the people who have and exercise the ultimate power.
But how answerable are representatives of the people to the people, particularly in modern democracy? This question has been a serious subject of political debates across the world. However, George Orwell’s satiric novel, Animal Farm, says it all: “All Animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”
Once elected, measures are hurriedly put in place by the representatives to hand-twist the people. Government machinery, such as the armed forces, the police and other Para-military forces which are supposed to protect life and property of the people are turned against the people by their representatives, thereby making the people to live a life of continuous deprivation in a world of opulence and wealth of their representatives.
Politicians in some climes exhibit cult- like approach in their relationship with the people. First, the organization of political parties has resulted in the elected representatives being primarily responsive and answerable only to the parties they belong, since the parties decide through primary elections who to be elected into government, while the people merely queue up in any election to give credibility to the election of the already chosen representatives.
The case becomes even worst, talking about a ruling party which wields the power of incumbency detrimentally against all other parties, using government resources at its disposal to hoodwink the people into electing only its candidates. The anti-government activities of the Maoists in India, the Mau-Mau of East Africa and the Niger Delta militants in Nigeria, to mention but a few, are clear manifestations of the people’s frustration at the inhuman breach of the political contract between the people and their government.
Now look at appointments into government. In a bid to hush some sections of the society, questionable characters who are known to be never-do-wells in their communities are most times appointed into government to hand twist their people in the political equation of the country.
Such personalities had never been known to have contributed anything meaningful towards the development of their communities; instead, they flaunt their sudden wealth to the chagrin of their poor people. The only time such people show some remorse is when an election is approaching; that is when they throw parties, cook good food and give some ill gotten money and exotic wine to the unwary people to curry their favour in their choice of who they should vote for .
And such complimentary appointments are legion in government, resulting in bloated political work force and being a major drain in the government’s coffers. The recurrent expenditure of most modern economies far outweighs their capital expenditure owing to the inordinate quest of the ruling parties in such political climes to accommodate as many party loyalists as possible in government. Hence, the resources for the general development of the society are selfishly shared among a few, while the generality of the people are left with barely enough to manage a life of deprivation.
That explains why some governments adopt propagandist approach in their information dissemination to the public. In a bid to mis-inform the public into believing that government is responsive to the plight of the people, media practitioners are lured from the ethical foundation of the Journalism profession of adhering to the truth at all times.
The sensibility of the people are daily a-washed with phantom projects of government . While some governments strive at all costs to maintain a positive image, they never tell the public of their failure:, it is always achievements, achievements and achievements in the air!
But there is a limit to which people could be fooled. Such deceptive attitude is far becoming a theatrical demonstration of the uncanny nature of mankind to impoverish the majority by the few; the people, therefore, most times no longer believe the pronouncements of their representatives in government. This is unfortunate since some governments, with genuine intentions to improve the lot of the people, are equally not trusted by the people.
A serving civil commissioner for information in one of the states in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria once said that the best publicity of government is when the implementation of government’s policies and programmes impact positively so much on the people that they wish the government to continue to govern them; and not the other way round, when the people only hear that billions of Naira had been spent on some white elephant projects that would not better the lots of the people, or worst still, when nothing is on ground to show that government exists at all.
It is against this backdrop, therefore, that government at various levels need to as a matter of urgency, keep to its contract with the people. While the executive arm of the government should formulate and execute people-oriented policies and programmes, the legislature should perform its oversight functions by cautioning the former each time it goes beyond its bound in its political contract with the people; the judiciary should also be forthright in the interpretation of the laws of the country; it should checkmate institutional corruption , and ensure the welfare of the people through upright dispensation of Justice. Of course, the media (the Forth Estate of the Realm) should shun the crumbs from the tables of those in government and adhere strictly to the ethics of the Journalism profession by publishing and airing the truth at all times.
Let’s conclude, therefore, by accepting the incisive statement of Mr. Bourke Cockran, an Irish–American, who believes that “There is enough for all .The earth is a generous mother; she will provide in plentiful abundance for all her children if they will but cultivate her soil in justice and in peace.”
Johnson Ebigide, a Journalist, writes from Asaba, Delta State.
By Prince Charles Dickson
A Tarokh adage translates, a child lacks wisdom, and some say that what is important is that the child does not die; what kills more surely than lack of wisdom? (A foolish child is not much better than a dead child).
It’s almost becoming a ritual that I would write about Jos, almost twice a year and sadly not because of any good news, but for all the wrong reasons.
I am forced again to shed light on the recent killings in Jos, not because I want to, but because truth must be told and tomorrow, I want to stand out and say I did not keep mute. Writing or telling the Jos, Plateau story is a difficult one, emotions are high, sentiments cloudy but irrespective of all these the salient truth remains.
It is that truth that we run from that has continually hunted and will keep haunting us on the Plateau. I do not expect commendation from this short take, because truth has very few disciples, especially in this clime where the truth has taken leave of us.
In the last fortnight it started out with an attack on a Muslim sect that had gone to pray in a Christian dominated section of the city. They had been warned by locals in the area not too. Fact! They went…Fact! They were attacked and lives lost. Fact! A failure on the side of government and its security apparatus, and there are no excuses.
There is no justification for the loss of lives. As I write this, its 8 days and the State governor is still away in India, doing what, very few know, but at least many know that he did not hand over to his deputy before he left owing a to brewing rift between both men.
Thus, it took four days for the deputy governor to officially chair a security session, meanwhile, it was tough with a new GOC and STF commander, the state government was at loss on how to tackle the crisis.
There were retaliatory attacks. I lost a friend on his way from Zaria, he was a good Muslim, he was not from Jos, Plateau, and he was on transit. Killed by hoodlums who do not know Christ, we had worked together recently on a project in Zaria.
On the Bauchi road axis, I lost another friend, infact a soldier; he was on transit from Maidugiri, a good Christian, killed by some thugs just after supposed prayers on Friday.
In most Berom villages, it’s been a war against Fulani herdsmen, a conflict that has history dating back several decades with even some cases still in the law courts of cattle thefts and murder dating to the 70s.
Yet over the years it has taken religious colouration and in recent times, in these villages were killings take place, Igbos have been targeted with the killing only last month of a complete family in Barkin Ladi. Local bombs are now common thing and it’s only a question of which family next.
In the Jos city center, I am sure very many do not know there is a Britis-America junction route taken only by Christians and the Bauchi, Zololo, Angwar Rogo axis viewed as Palestinian and manned by Muslims..
Christians and Muslims in Jos, live apart and may never live together at the rate we are going, as in recent times even indigenous Muslims have been targeted by native hoodlums, and Yoruba Muslims targeted by settling hoodlums.
I have used the term, natives and settlers on intent because it is part of the Jos problem, who owns the land? Like the western media has dissected us to Muslim North and Christian South, in Jos, apart from being second only to Adamawa in terms of languages and ethnic groups have taken same road.
There are Beroms vs Hausas, Christians vs Muslims, Hausas vs others, natives vs Hausas, Beroms vs Fulanis, we vs them, Yoruba Muslims vs other Muslims, others vs Berom, this list is not exhaustive. I want to this week go and see my friend and big brother Dr. Aliyu Tilde in Fulden Bauchi but been warned it’s not safe, one could be caught in the vs
There is the theory that Jos is the heartland for an Islamization agenda by ‘them’. Well, it’s a theory of the naive versus the learned. In Jos, there is not only palpable tension but immerse hatred.
Whichever way it is viewed the land of Generals, is a complete study in failure of leadership, whether CAN, PFN, PDP, JNI, JIBWIS, Army, Police and all those vested with the power to do something.
It’s strange that Useni, a general that leads the Arewa, is in Jos, and one of the key problems has become “a hatred for the Arewas”. How can Gowon be praying for Nigeria and cannot pray for Jos, anyway many see him as the Zaria Prince, why would Domkat Bali, Shagaya, Temlong and the rest just sit and watch the desecration of Jos by hoodlums on both sides.
Reason is simply, all these elite are either not even talking, or like I was recently told by one of them…”It’s Jang, he does not listen”.
In this year alone there have three relocations, all by the Igbos, first it was the motor spare parts market that moved from Dilimi, the printing business left Buachi Road, and then lately the electronics market leaving Masclacchi Jumai axis
In Jos, it has gone beyond clashes, to killings and sheer criminality, the amount of arms in circulation is scary as localities resort to local vigilantes that have no modus operandi other than kill the perceived enemy. The city map is being re-drawn…
Three days into the killings, a staff of a courier company was on assignment to Abuja, he was travelling with his wife, the car broke down at Mararaba, and he asked his wife to go back hence they had barely started the journey.
She never got back to Jos…Her phone rang and it was picked by them…
A complete taxi from the Kaduna axis got missing with all passengers unaccounted for…killed by them.
Taxpayers’ money paid to security forces yet citizens have resorted to jungle warfare. Parents cannot allow their kids go to school as, on Sunday, pews were half empty as bomb scare texts are spread via mobile and social media.
Everyone watches the other person as Friday prayers are on-going.
Interestingly some 10 local governments apart from political turmoil and hardship are peaceful in Plateau, not even aware of happenings in the state capital.
All these killings will sadly continue because, there is hate, it’s there, it will continue because no one is ever punished. It will continue because no one cares, life has no value.
In case no one said it, I say it again; in some parts of the city, human beings are killed and ate. In some areas the Nigerian army cannot go there, in some areas there are no churches.
Christians cannot wear kaftan, and Muslims cannot jeans up and wear a T-Shirt.
Yet we all meet at the bank, use same MTN, Glo, Etisalat and co to make calls warning each other and spreading hate.
A solution…Just one for now, Jos does not need a commission; there has been 7 on the last count .It needs a truth and reconciliation commission. However the important questions will never be answered if the issues of employment and education are not tackled because we will always have idle hands, a devil and a workshop.
I make a very inciting sounding comment in ending this essay…for once, let all these bloodletting be targeted at leaders that have shown that they are not willing to lead and it may in itself be a solution too.
Revenge, retaliation, vengeance, to get even, reprisal, retribution, it’s a circle, someone needs to halt it. If not we will get to the point we may not know which will haunt us, the dead child or the fact its alive without wisdom.
Prince Charles Dickson
The Delta State Re-run Elections Petitions Tribunal sitting in Asaba, stunned Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and their teeming supporters, when it ruled that it will give judgement on the Petition filed by Chief Great Ogboru of the DPP, challenging the results of the April 14, 2007 governorship election in Delta State which gave victory to Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan.
A Federal High Federal High Court sitting in Asaba had on July 20, 2011, literally set the cat amongst the pigeons when it voided the candidature of Chief Great Ove jde Ogboru as the governorship flag-bearer of the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) in the April j14, 2007 elections in Delta State.
Delivering judgement on a suit brought before it by the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its chairman, Barr. Peter Nwaoboshi challenging the eligibility of Ogboru for the election, Justice Ibrahim M. Buba of the Federal High Court Asaba held that Ogboru did not comply with statutory requirements of the 2006 Electoral Act. Justice Ibrahim Buba had specifically declared that Chief Great Ogboru of the Democratic People’s Party (DPP) was not a candidate in the January 6, 2011 Governorship re-run election, as the Court held that Ogboru did not meet the provisions of the 2006 Electoral Act which stipulates that 50 party members should endorse the governorship candidate.
According to the petitioners as filed in suit No FHC/ASB/CS/104/2011, Great Ogboru was not qualified to have participated in the April 14, 2007 Governorship Election as those who nominated him were not registered members of the Democratic People’s Party (DPP) and this in view of the petitioners, was a breach of the provisions of the Electoral Act. The judge concured with their prayers and subsequently declared chief Ogboru ineligible for the election.
There was wild jubilation and great anxiety in equal measure on the parts of supporters of both the PDP and the DPP across the state, following this pronouncement by the Federal High Court in Asaba and it was against this backdrop of palpable tension and uncertainty that the Delta Re-run Tribunal convened om Monday, July 21, to adopt the final addresses of all the parties to the matter as earlier scheduled when the Court adjourned on Saturday, July 18, after the trial cases of all the parties had been presented and argued extensively and comprehensively within the time limit allotted to each of the parties.
The Tribunal hall was thus packed full with spectators, who were on tenterhooks with bated breath and the excitement reached fever pitch when the legal salvos commenced. All the parties were given 15 (fifteen) minutes each by the Tribunal to present their final addresses for adoption.
As to be expected, the Respondents wasted no time in invoking the judgement of the Federal High Court in Asaba which had declared that Chief Great Ogboru was not validly nominated as the governorship candidate of the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP), for the April 14, 2007 Delta State governorship election and asked the Tribunal to take judicial notice of the Court pronouncement and dismiss the Petition of Chief Great Ogboru from the Tribunal.
Parading a coterie of distinguished legal luminaries and Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN’s), the Respondents represented by Wole Olanipekun, SAN and Kern Mozia Esquire (for first respondent Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan), Adebayo Adenepekun, SAN (for the second respondent PDP) and the erudite Dr. Austin Ikpeazu, SAN (for the third respondent INEC), argued extensively that in view of the recent pronouncement by Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Asaba Federal High Court Chief Great Ogboru was not validly nominated as the DPP governorship candidate, the Tribunal should dismiss the petition forthwith as it lacked competence and credibility before the Court.
During their separate adoption of submission before the tribunal, INEC’s counsel, Dr. Austin Ikpeazu (SAN), drew the attention of the tribunal to the Wednesday July 20, judgment of the Asaba Federal High Court which invalidated the nomination of the petitioner. “My lord it is not as if election did not take place but voting didn’t take place in some areas. Already a Federal High court had on Wednesday declared that the petitioner, Ogboru was not duly nominated as such ought not to have participated in the re-run election”. Citing several authorities including the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and other relevant documents, Ikpeazu argued that the pronouncement of the Federal High Court was binding on the Tribunal and he then urged the tribunal to dismiss in its entirety the petition of Ogboru having failed to prove his case beyond any reasonable doubt.
On his part, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), counsel to the Ist respondent, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, also drew the attention of the tribunal to the Wednesday judgment and submitted that Ogboru’s petition has no locus standi since the Federal High court has nullified his nomination. According to him, “With reference to section 74 of the Evidence Act your Lordships are enjoined to enforce the Federal High Court judgment because the petition would have died a natural death”
However, the legal arguments was to take a new and exciting turn when lead counsel to the petitioner, Mogbeyi Sagay, SAN, promptly objected to all the submissions by the Respondents and urged the tribunal to allow the petition. Responding, in his counter argument, Sagay posited thus: “My lords, the judgments that have been presented here are not before your lordships as issues for the trial as agreed by all the parties, because they were neither pleaded as applications nor were they adopted by this Court as affidavits in the records of the Courts proceedings at any time during the course of this trial. As such the tribunal cannot rely on them as they cannot form any basis on the judgment that the tribunal shall give.”
Arguing further Mogbeyi Sagay, SAN, emphasized that: “My lords that Federal High court is just a realm judgment because that is not the final judgment. There is already an Appeal for stay of execution and there are several injunctions pending against that (Federal High Court) judgment and as such, it cannot be considered as the final judgment.”
According to Sagay, the Delta state INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Dr. Gabiel Ogbudu Ada who is a star witness in the case showed up in court but “ran away” and thus did not testify. Also, all the electoral materials tendered in court were unlabelled and could not match with any of the units. Said he, “INEC could not prove that election was conducted and why did Justice Buba wait till now before delivering that judgment even apart from the fact that the Federal High court has no jurisdiction to entertain the case,?” he queried.
Sagay then told the Court that the burden of proof on whether the Petitioner was not validly nominated by his party to contest the April 2007 election was still on the respondents and had not shifted from them to the petitioner, since they were the ones making the allegation. The onus was on them to provide evidence to back up their arguments. The petitioner (Chief Ogboru) has affirmed on oath that he was validly nominated for the election and anybody who claims otherwise should bring proof to support their arguments.
He then concluded by asking the Court to declare his client (Chief Great Ogboru) the winner of the January 6, 2011 Delta State re-run election on the grounds that he has been able to prove that elections did not hold in the 8 (eight) local government areas they were contesting because INEC did not produce the ballot papers and result sheets for the eight local government areas in contention and even the ones the electoral body tendered before the tribunal were not stamped and numbered serially, amongst other reasons.
After listening to both parties, the tribunal led by its chairman, Justice Doris Uzoamaka Ogwurike and ably supported by Justices Ogbonna Okereke and Bello Duwale promptly fixed judgment for Monday, July, 25th, 2011. The sitting was jam packed with top aides of Governor Uduaghan’s administration including his Chief of Staff, cabinet members, former Aides and supporters as well as supporters of Chief Great Ogboru and members of the DPP.
Reacting to the initial Asaba Federal High Court pronouncement by justice Ibrahim Buba, the Chairman of the Delta State Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) Chief Tony Ezeagwu described the effort of the PDP as an exercise in futility and thanked God for the decision of the Tribunal to go ahead and fix a date for Judgement proper. According to Ezeagwu, “We thank God for the decision of the tribunal to fix a date for judgement in this matter. The PDP must have realized that it was losing out and so they went and got that kangaroo Judgement, when they knew that it was not in their case originally. It was an exercise in futility and we thank God that their plan has been exposed.”
Speaking further, the Delta DPP Chieftain said that, ‘The Tribunal has been fantastic. We have never seen a Tribunal like this in Delta State. Other Tribunals before now would have simply shut us out and used the excuse of the Federal High Court pronouncement to terminate our case, but we are happy today that Justice is not only being done but also seen to be done.”
Continuing, Ezeagwu said, “Our people had been greatly worried and there was panic amongst some of our supporters when they heard the Federal High Court Judgement. People were calling from all over to clarify the matter but we were able to douse the tension and assure them that all was well. Our people feel happy and uplifted now that the Tribunal has fixed Judgement for Monday July 25, 2011. “Chief Great Ogboru was validly, completely and unanimously nominated by our party the DPP as our flag-bearer for the April 14, 2007 governorship election in Delta State. What the PDP has done is an effort in futility. We have already appealed the judgement like our Lawyer said in Court today and we are happy with the way things have developed”.
In his own reaction to the judgment, Turner Ogboru, a DPP Chieftain and brother to Chief Great Ogboru said that he was not bothered by what the Asaba Federal High Court had done. Said he, “The judgement is perverse and ridiculous. We have traveled a similar road in the past and the judgment is not a big issue. Both Chief Great Ogboru and Emmanuel Uduaghan met the stipulated guidelines and requirements for the elections in question and they were both duly cleared by INEC to contest the election.
“Chief Great Ogboru was duly nominated by 50 registered members of the DPP and the nomination form EC4-B6 as provided by INEC was duly submitted. For them to now turn around and say that he was not duly nominated after he had been cleared by INEC to contest the election is simply ridiculous.”
Recall that the Court of Appeal, Benin City, Edo State had in November, 2010, nullified the April 2007 governorship election in Delta State, which Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan had won, and ordered a re-run election in the state within 90 days of the ruling. Governor Uduaghan had then won the re-run election held on January 6, 2011 and had narrowly missed a tenure elongation bonus following the signing of the 2010 Electoral Act (Amended) by President Goodluck Jonathan on January 10, 2011, the same day Uduaghan was sworn-in again as governor of Delta State.
Chief Great Obgoru had then petitioned the Elections Tribunal to challenge the results of the elections from 8 (eight) Local Government Areas in Delta State and prayed the Court to nullify the results from the said Local government areas on the grounds that they were not a true reflection of the election and declare him winner from the results of the remaining Local government areas.
The decision of the Justice Doris Uzoamaka Ogwurike led Tribunal to fix judgement on the matter, after all parties had presented their cases and final addresses and despite a last minute attempt by one of the the Respondents (PDP) to dismiss the Petitioner’s case through an Asaba Federal High Court Pronouncement invalidating Great Ogboru’s candidature for the April 14, 2007 governorship election in Delta State, (amid speculations that some huge financial gratification had allegedly been provided to lubricate the process in order to achieve a particularly favourable pronouncement from the Asaba Federal High Court, which has been seen in some quarters as allegedly amenable to the desires of certain interests) has finally set the stage for the next big installment in this long running election petition battle for the soul of Delta State, which commenced in 2007.
Deltans and Delta Watchers will wait for July 25, 2011 with bated breath and not a little anxiety and excitement across the state as the D.Day approaches.
First and Second Respondents in the Delta State Re-run election Tribunal, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), closed their trial cases on Tuesday July 12, 2011 and Thursday July 14, 2011 respectively but not without the usual exciting legal twists and turns which had hallmarked the tribunal proceedings since it commenced sitting on July 5, 2011.
Meanwhile, the Justice Ayo Abisoye Delta State Elections Tribunal has dismissed the application filed by Governor Uduaghan to strike out the petition filed by Chief Great Ogboru, challenging the April 26, 2011, governorship elections in Delta State.
In a similar matter, Chief Pius Ewherido (DPP) enjoyed victory over Chief Ighoyota Amori (PDP) over the April 9, 2011 Delta Central Senatorial Elections, which Ewheridi won. Also, the tribunal gave ruling in favour of Peter Onwusanya (PDP) over Nwanze Oduah (DPP) in the Oshimili South House of Assembly elections of April 26, 2011.
Spectators and re-run tribunal watchers were taken by surprise when they arrived at the Court to witness the commencement of the trial case of the First Respondent (Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan) in the January 6, 2011 re-run elections and were greeted with the presence of a new lead Counsel, Chief Alex Iziyon (SAN) in full charge, replacing the renowned Wole Olanipekun (SAN), who had held sway during the trial case of the petitioner (Chief Great Ogboru), ably marshalled by his counsel Mogbeyi Sagay (SAN).
The Second Respondent (PDP) also brought in a seasoned legal luminary, Adebayo Adenepehun (SAN), who was drafted in to replace the recently appointed Delta State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Charles Ajuyah (SAN) for its trial case and with all the protagonists, including the Members of the tribunal led by Hon. Justice Doris Uzoamaka Ogwurike as Chairman and both Hon. Justice Louis Ogbonna Okereke and Hon. Justice Bello Duwale as members, well primed to do confront the legalese before them, the stage was nicely set for what has turned out to be an exciting exchange of legal arguments, strategy and sometimes provocation, which had even had the spectators spontaneously releasing their emotions as the twists galore unfolded.
Recall that the Petitioner (Chief Great Ogboru) had in his petition, prayed the Court to declare him winner of the January 6, 2011 Delta State re-run elections on the grounds that the results declared from 8 (eight) Local Government Areas of the state at that election, was not a true reflection of the elections conducted and as such elections did not hold in those areas.
The petitioner further prayed that the results from the remaining local government areas should be used to determine him the winner of the election, having satisfied the relevant provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999), as amended and the Electoral Act (2010), as amended.
And so, as to be expected, counsel for the First Respondent, (Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan), Chief Alex Iziyon (SAN) had hinged his strategy on the procedural plank of trying to establish that elections actually held and were conducted in the contentious Local Government Areas.
This was the pattern established during the cross examination of his 13 (thirteen) witnesses by counsel to the Second Respondent (PDP) Adebayo Adenepekun (SAN), who, in the two days allotted for his trial case, painstakingly led the witnesses through the various stages of an election process, from joining the cue for accreditation, through the voting proper, the collation of results and the announcement of same at each polling unit. He then ended by asking them if the elections, from their observations was free and fair, to which they all replied: ‘Yes, my Lord’.
However, on cross examination by the counsel to the petitioner, Mogbeyi Sagay (SAN), a different scenario began to unfold before the spectators. It was obvious from the onset, that the strategy of the petitioner was to challenge the authenticity of the witnesses both in their personal records and in the evidence/statements they had deposed before the court.
In the course of the cross examination therefore, a particular witness when asked if the Action Congress Party Nigeria (ACN) was on the ballot and took part in the January 6, 2011 Delta State re-run election, answered yes, and said that he saw the name of the ACN on the ballot and the result sheets were duly signed by its agents. Another witnesses told the court that he had lost his voters card immediately after the elections and so could not produce it in court. And yet another witness had two different dates of birth on his party card and voters card.
Some of the witnesses who claimed to be party agents did not have their letters of appointment and acceptance as agents, relying instead on their tags as modes of identification, one particularly witness could not spell the name of the primary school were she claimed to have voted and another witness had a hot exchange with the petitioner’s counsel whom he alleged was trying to confuse him with his cross examination, even as another witness claimed that he completed his accreditation and voting within 45 (forty five) minutes. The petitioner grilled all the witnesses with the same cross examination strategy.
The First Respondent also called two Expert witnesses, Prof. Patrick Igbigbii, a Dematoglyphics (fingerprints study and analysis) expert and Provost of the College of Medicine, DELSU and also, Mr. Egbuna Vincent, a Commissioner of Police, Forensic Department, Force Headquarters, Alagbon, Lagos, respectively on the second day.
Prior to the commencement of cross examination of the Expert witnesses, the Petitioner’s Counsel Mogbeyi Sagay (SAN) had challenged the presentation of the Experts on the grounds that their names and reports had not been frontloaded to the tribunal as required by law, but rather they had only been mentioned with their names withheld. He also argued that their names had not also been included in the applications for additional witnesses in the pre-trial pleadings and had not been reflected in the order of July 5th, 2011, setting the guidelines for the trial, adding that there was no order for the Subpoena of the witnesses before the Court.
He further argued that the Expert witnesses were not invited to tender any report or give evidence on the inspection carried out on the election materials, but to assassinate the character of other forensic Experts, a statement which counsel to the first Respondent found quite provocative and challenged immediately, prompting the tribunal judge to caution counsel to mind their language, to which they all concurred.
Sagay then argued that Court orders are specific and should be given both literary and ordinary meanings and since their names were not on the Court order of 5th July, 2011, and they were not in court to present any report inspection findings, they should be excluded as witnesses before the tribunal, because the Respondents can only call witnesses on its list, no more, no less.
In response, both Iziyon (SAN) for first respondent and Adenepekun (SAN) for second respondent, argued that the petitioner’s objection was premature, because he had not said anything to indicate what his evidence contained. They also contended that a the details and evidence of a witness on subpoena need not be frontloaded.
Iziyon (SAN) in particular contended that the petitioner’s objection not only lacked legal foundation, but was grossly misconceived, citing that the Court had expressly granted the prayers of the respondents in the several applications filed before and during pre-trial to present two Fingerprints and one Information Technology (IT) Experts as witnesses and the petitioner had not appealed at that time.
He further argued that Subpoena does not require putting the opposing counsel on notice, because it is an order of the court and should be treated as such. He called the objection an “invidious attack on the court” and concluded by saying that “ He (petitioner) cannot do our case for us”
In her ruling, Justice Uzoamaka Ogwurike overruled the objection of the petitioner on the grounds that the first respondent had listed the additional witnesses it intends to call, though not by name, during pre-trial and the tribunal cannot close its eyes to the fact that it had made an order for the trial, so the objection is overruled and the witness can give evidence.
One of the Expert witnesses Mr. Egbuna Vincent, a Commissioner of Police, Forensic Department, Force Headquarters, Alagbon, Lagos even in the told the tribunal that Petitioner’s Witness (PW) 18 Ahmed Ibrahim, an Assistant Suprintendent of Police, ASP, who had testified before the tribunal between July 4 and 5, and whose report on forensic examination of the ballot papers used for the January 6 re-run had already been adopted by the Court, was no longer in the service of the Police Force, adding that Ahmed was never at anytime instructed to carry out any forensic inspection by the Department.
On cross examination however, Mr. Egbuna admitted that he had not taken part in the inspection of election materials for the January 6, Delta State re-run elections and so had no report to present. When asked of his Identity Card as a Police Officer and head of department, he told the Court that he had no I.D Card (with him in the Court). He also said that he did not bring his certificates to confirm his qualifications as a forensic expert and did not have any letter, as the head of the forensic department, Alagbon to indicate that Ahmed Ibrahim, had been relieved of his position with the Nigerian Police.
Another expert witness Prof. Igbigbii also faced a rigorous cross examination. Responding to questions on cross examination by the Second Respondent (PDP), Adebayo Adenepekun (SAN), Prof. Igbigbii told the Tribunal that a forensic analysis of the ballot papers used by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for the January 6 governorship re-run in the state showed that 55 per cent of the ballot papers had blurred fingerprints, 25 per cent of the ballot papers had partial fingerprints while only 20% had legible prints.
Prof. Igbigbii who was subpoenaed by the tribunal, said most of the ballot papers had finger marks and not fingerprints, and that it would be extremely impossible to use those prints to ascertain the authenticity of the votes, adding that INEC did not meet the standard condition to make meaningful deduction for fingerprints under the environment in which the January 6 re-run election was conducted, among which were visibility of prints, complete fingerprints.
On cross examination by the petitioner, Mogbeyi Sagay (SAN), Prof. Igbigbii told the Court that he had been the Chairman of the Board of the Oghara Teaching Hospital while he was provost of the school and when asked who had appointed him, he told the Court “Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan”. When asked further if he knew that the same Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, who is the Visitor of his institution and equally his employer was also the same person as the first respondent in the case, Prof Igbigbii said yes, he knew.
Another expert witness, Mr. O Saturday, who described himself as a forensic statistician and data analyst, told the court on cross examination by Mogbeyi Sagay (SAN), that he knew all the personnel who participated in the inspection process, but when directed to look at and asked if he had ever met or knew a certain Mr. Uloko, who was the head of the DPP legal team during the three days of the inspection of election materials as ordered by the Court and who was actually sitting down next to the petitioner’s counsel directly in front of the witness box, Mr. Saturday said that he had never seen and did not know Mr. Uloko, adding that he did not know the names of the other members of the inspection team from the other parties but could only identify them physically.
When asked further to disclose the number of ballot papers he had inspected, and the serial numbers on the ballot papers, Mr. Saturday said he did not know the number of ballot papers he counted or the serial numbers, but that he had accounted all the ballot papers.
Governor Uduaghan, also tendered the final result (EC8E), as well as the voter’s register, of the re-run conducted by INEC to show that the commission organized an election and computed results consequent upon which he was declared winner
For the records, the defence witnesses who testified for both the First and Second Respondents over the four days include: Ama Agbajoh, PDP chairman in Warri South council; Mr. Lucky Ibori, party agent, Ethiope West; Gospel Golley, voter, Ethiope West; Mr. Helen Idjerhe, voter, Ethiope West; Ebitemi John, voter, and Sylvester Okoroware, party agent, Bomadi.
Others include; Mercy French, and Pension Awani, from Warri South; Ugoti Bawo, Warri South-West; Stephen Adeleke, Patani; and Douglas Eneke from Burutu Local Government Area. They all maintained that the governorship re-run election took place in their areas and results declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. All of them also testified that elections in their various units and wards were free and fair.
The Third Respondent INEC, opens its own two days trial case on Friday July 15, 2011.
*Ewherido Defeats Amori, *Onwusanya Gets Judgement over Oduah
In a related development Senator Pius Ewherido (DPP) has been given the final nod to enjoy his victory as Senator representing Delta Central in the April 9, 2011 general elections, when the elections tribunal sitting in Asaba dismissed the case of Chief Ighoyota Amori (PDP) on the grounds that his application for pre-trail hearing was done in a written letter instead of a proper motion. The Court therefore dismissed Amori’s petition on grounds of improper procedure in the application for pre-trial hearing.
The tribunal also gave ruling in favour of Peter Onwusanya (PDP) over Nwanze Oduah (DPP) in the Oshimili South House of Assembly elections of April 26, 2011.
The tribunal had also earlier dismissed the petition of one Solomon Awhinawhi, challenging the victory of Chief Ogbaburhon in the April 2011 House of Representatives elections for Udu Federal Constituency.
The petition filed by the Governorship candidate of the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru, challenging the result of the April 26, 2011 Delta State governorship, which was won by Emmanuel Uduaghan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has been adopted by the Delta State Elections Petitions Tribunal for hearing.
This development emerged in the wake of the dismissal of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan’s application on motion which prayed the Tribunal to declare Ogboru’s petition as irrelevant and abandoned on the grounds that the petitioner had allegedly failed to file a reply to the respondent’s reply to his petition within the stipulated period of five days.
Delivering its ruling under tight security the Hon. Justice Ayo Abisoye led three man tribunal averred that the petitioner (Ogboru) filed its reply to the respondent reply within the stipulated period of five days.
She added that the petitioner has not abandoned its petition having satisfied the statutory five days, noting that the amended 2010 Electoral Act as well as the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules were ambiguous in what should be parameter in computing days.
She also added that there was lacuna in the 2010 amended Electoral Act as regards the time for filing tribunal petitions as against the 2006 electoral act which stipulates that the 30 days for the filing of an election petition commences from the day the election result was declared by INEC.
Ruling further Justice Abisoye said that, there is no clear cut parameter to compute time in the electoral act, and citing several references from the Supreme Court and in accordance with the relevant sections of the Electoral Act and Federal High Court Civil procedure Rules, she noted that computing of time of filing election petitions no longer commenced from the day the election result was declared but starts from the next day.
She therefore averred that the petitioner’s reply dated June 22, 2011 to that of the respondent’s which was filed June 16 2011 was in order.
In her words; “The petitioner was served with the respondent’s reply on June 16, 2011 which has June 22, 2011 as the last five days excluding Saturday and Sunday which are 18th and 19th which was within the time limit stipulated in paragraph 16 (1) to the first schedule of the electoral act.
“It showed that the computing of time starts a day after the declaration of result. Petitioner reply to that of the respondent happened on 4. 10 p.m on June 16 which continue to run till 4.10 p.m, June 22, 2011. Having filed its reply on June 22, it was deemed that the petitioner filed at 4. 10 p.m”.
She however noted that the petitioner’s reply which was filed on June 22 was duly filed and served on respondent on June 23, but dismissed the respondent’s motion for lack of merit.
It will be recalled that lead Counsel to the Respondent (Governor Uduaghan), Wole Olanipekun (SAN) has urged the tribunal to declare the petition of the petitioner as being abandoned on the ground that it failed to file a reply to its petition within the alleged five day period as stipulated by the relevant statutes.
Nicholas Ichekor (ESQ) counsel to Ogboru had then prayed in his response that the tribunal dismiss the respondent’s application as the reply to its petition was filed within the stipulated period of five days with the exclusion of weekends.
The judgment which took over two hours to be delivered had been arrived at after the members of the tribunal had recessed for over two hours to study the application and prepare its ruling.
With this ruling, pre-trial hearing on the matter has now been fixed to commence on Wednesday July 27, 2011.
Reacting to the ruling, Delta State DPP Chairman Chief Tony Ezeagwu gave Glory to God for the way the matter was resolved, noting that this was the first time in the history of tribunals in Delta State when judges have displayed a clear intention to dispense justice without any colorations.
Speaking further Chief Ezeagwu said “I want to thank the President of the Court of Appeal Justice Salami for appointing tried and tested judges to handle these tribunals and indeed President Goodluck for giving the Judiciary a free hand to do its work. Before now, tribunals were noted to have to have entertained motions upon motions from respondents all in a bid to waste the time of petitioners and the Court. But these tribunal members are purposeful, decisive and have given us hope that we will get a free and fair hearing
“We are jubilating over the ruling today because our case would have been cut short and terminated if the judgement had gone against us. We would have been dejected, disappointed and disillusioned if the ruling had not favoured us. What this ruling means is that our case can now go on and you can see that the people are very happy. We are happy because we have always said that our mission is not for our selfish interests but to liberate Delta State. We have told the PDP to meet us on the field because elections is about the choice and votes of the people and not about running away with ballot boxes and declaring yourself the winner of an election you did not win”.
Ezeagwu expressed confidence that justice will be done this time by the Grace of God, beacuse the tribunal has restored the confidence of the people in the judicial system so far and urged their supporters to stay calm and pary that God will vindicate the DPP in Delta in the long run.
In his own reaction to the ruling, Turner Ogboru, another DPP Chieftain and brother to the petitioner Chief Great Ogboru simply said: “This is the day that the Lord has made.”
This is the second Uduaghan application to be dismissed by an election petitions tribunal in the space of two weeks. It will be recalled that the the Delta state Re-run Election Tribunal, under the Chairmanship of Hon. Justice Uzoamaka Ogwurike, which is also sitting simultaneously with the April 26, Elections Petitions Tribunal, but at a different venue in Asaba, had on July 5, 2011, also dismissed an application filed by Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan to stop the petition of Chief Great Ogboru challenging the results of the January 6, 2011 Delta State Governorship re-run election.
Uduaghan’s application had prayed the Court to strike out Chief Ogboru’s petition on the grounds that it was irrelevant, lacked competence and had been overtaken by time, but Justice Uzoamaka Ogwurike had dismissed the application on the grounds (amongst others) that the 180days stipulated by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended had not elapsed and so the petition was still competent, relevant and the tribunal had jurisdiction to entertain it.
Recall further that the Chairman of the Delta State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal for the April 26 governorship election, Hon. Justice Ayo Abisoye had, during its opening session, handed down a strict warning to litigants not to attempt to influence or compromise the tribunal by any means, as “justice is not for sale”.
She had also pledged that; “We shall accord fair hearing to all litigants and dispense justice without fear or favour. We, the members of the tribunal shall discharge our judicial duties in observance of the oath office we have sworn to under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”
According to her, the tribunal would give all petitions accelerated hearing and she also advised counsels to the petitioners and respondents to eschew unnecessary application for adjournment and warned journalists to avoid sensational reporting of proceeding at the tribunal.
Chief Great Oveje Ogboru, Governorship candidate of the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP), in the January 6, 2011 re-run Governorship elections in Delta State, finally concluded his trial case and examination of witnesses at the Tribunal on Saturday July 9, 2011, amid some very exciting legal twists and robust interchange of arguments between his counsel Mogbeyi Sagay (SAN), the newly drafted Counsel for First Respondent (Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan), Wole Olanipekun (SAN) and members of the Election Tribunal,chaired by Hon. Justice Doris Uzoamaka Ogwurike.
Against the backdrop of the agreement by all parties that Trial proper would commence on Friday, July 8, 2011 and that each party would have two days to present witnesses and each witness would be allotted 10minutes for cross examination by opposing counsel, all in a bid to maximize the remaining time left for the Tribunal to conclude hearing and give judgment within the stipulated 180days, Mogbeyi Sagay (SAN),counsel for the Petitioner (Chief Great Ogboru), promptly opened his trial case on July 8, 2011 by calling on all his certified witnesses for the first day to step into the dock and take questions from opposing counsel.
From the onset, the legal contention of the 1st-3rd Respondents’ case was to establish that elections duly took place in the Local Government Areas in contention and they wasted no time in their efforts during cross examination, to commit the witnesses to verbal pronouncements into contradicting their already deposed statements and affidavits and what ensued. What subsequently ensued was a robust verbal exchange as the witnesses held firmly to their positions, sometimes passionately.
All apparently went smoothly on the first day, but the real legal twists and turns unfolded on the second day, July 9, 2011, when Counsel for Chief Ogboru, presented his expert witnesses. Perhaps sensing that his legal team led by Ken Mozia, was not sufficiently aggressive or maybe did not possess the requisite legal stature and authority to impose itself on the proceedings, as was required in such a high powered legal tussle, the First Respondent (Governor Uduaghan) played a trump card and surprised many when eminent constitutional Lawyer Wole Olonipekun, (SAN), who is also a renowned counsel to many high brow clients, made an unexpected appearance, replacing Ken Mozia as lead counsel,on the second day.
The appearance of the expert witness, a certain David Goodwin, whose credentials confirm that he is an expert from the Fingerprints Agency in the United Kingdom, sparked the legal tussle which was to dominate proceedings for the better part of the second day. And as to be expected, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), immediately pulled rank in the hierarchy of legal representations present in the trial and indeed for the benefit of the Chairman and members of the Tribunal.
His first contention was that the forensic expert, David Goodwin was not properly presented by the petitioner as a witness to testify in the trial and his testimony would amount to a nullity since his presence in the matter was still in contention. The heated arguments which attended the admission or otherwise of Mr. Goodwin as a witness lasted from morning till afternoon, when Chairman of the tribunal Justice Uzoamaka Ogwurike adjourned sitting to consider the matter.
The adjournment lasted for a tense, nerve wracking three hours, the longest since the committee began sitting and by the time Justice Uzoamaka Ogwurike returned to give her ruling it became obvious that a crucial moment had been reached in the trial. Her ruling was as simple as it was short. According to her, David Goodwin was duly presented amongst the witnesses filed by the petitioner on the 5th of July, 2011, when the trial commenced and his name had been specifically put down as an additional witness and the court had already recognized and adopted him as such. The witness should therefore proceed with his evidence as the Court cannot overrule itself.
A huge murmuring of combined emotions for and against the ruling buzzed around court room from the spectators, who had already been highly charged and involved as the counsels engaged each other with verbal salvos earlier in the proceedings before the break. David Goodwin was duly sworn to oath and deposed to an affidavit including his resume and his findings contained in a report co-authored by an expert from the Nigerian police and with forensic expert statement and report formally adopted and the witness formally established and prepared to commence his cross examination, after having sat in the dock for over two hours waiting to be cleared, the second issue of the day arose.
Invoking all his well honed legal expertise Wole Olanipekun (SAN) first of all informed the Court that because he was served the report only that morning, he had not had time to fully study the document. He also said that the report contained some technical details which were beyond his learning and so he needed time to consult some experts before he could proceeded with the cross examination. He then challenged and successfully convinced the Court to extricate the Forensic expert’s report from the witness statement, after which the legal luminary representing the First respondent, proceeded to discredit the report on the grounds of Heading, Signature and Date and citing several authorities including a Supreme Court reference, was able to establish that the report was inadmissible as evidence.
In his counter argument, Mogbeyi Sagay, representing the petitioner told the tribunal amongst other things that any objection on the report should be based on weight rather than admissibility and the concept of admissibility under the Nigerian law and all over the world was is based on the relevance of the evidence to the issue at hand rather than the author of the evidence. He told the Court that the author of the report was the same as the maker and the tribunal Chairman should see himself as a judge of fact and law, which gives him interpretative powers, and which in this case means that the tribunal should see the Author of the report as one and the same with the witness whose statement had already been admitted as affidavit ans as such, accept the Forensic report as a piece of relevant evidence that has a direct bearing on the case.
In her ruling, Justice Uzoamaka Ogwurike noted the points of law raised by the respondent and rejected the report on the grounds that since it was not properly dated and does not bear a definitive heading, it was not the duty of the tribunal to go on a voyage of discovery to ascertain what was contained in the report because that would amount to waste of time. The report was therefore rejected by the court on a technicality and another loud murmuring of emotions buzzed from the gallery which prompted the tribunal chairman to threaten that she would stop spectators from attending the hearings subsequently, if they continued to disturb the court with their noise.
The rejection of the report also signaled the end of the end of the day for Mr. David Goodwin who could not lend his much anticipated voice to the proceedings, to the disappointment of some and the joy of others. The legal salvos between the respondents team and the members of the tribunal witnessed some hot verbal exchanges with the arrival of other witnesses, when Wole Olanipekun (SAN) loudly objected to several pronouncements by the tribunal chairman, on grounds that he and his team were entitled to a fair hearing and demanded more time for them to properly study the reports of the witnesses to enable them carry out a proper cross examination.
Justice Ogwurike however went to lengths to explain the situation by recalling that all the parties had earlier agreed on the time schedule for the trial to meet up with the deadline set by the constitution for the tribunal and since the court had ruled on it, she had no intention of overruling the court by granting more time to any party. She then instructed the court secretary to ensure that each of the parties maintained the 10minute time allotted for the cross examination of each witness, a scenario which Olanipekun objected to vehemently and which visibly did not go down well with members of the tribunal.
The appearance of the forensic accountant went by without much ado as the respondents, claiming that they had not had time to fully study his report refrained from any cross examination. But the final twist of the day came when the forensic expert from the Nigerian Police who co-authored the forensic report appeared as witness. Wole Olanipekun (SAN) promptly challenged his appearance and report on the grounds it was the same evidence as the one already rejected by the Court, but Mogbeyi Sagay (SAN) was able to argue cleverly that the court cannot go back to an already rejected report and citing several relevant authorities posited that this one should be treated on its own original affidavit by a different witness, amongst other grounds.
The tribunal in its ruling accepted the forensic report as admissible evidence and so what the Petitioner lost, with the rejection of the forensic report presented by the expert from the United Kingdom, it gained dramatically when the Court accepted the report of the Nigerian forensic expert. With that, the case of Chief Great Ogboru is back on track as many Delta watchers had speculated that the real crux of the matter was in the forensic findings after the inspection of election materials from the January 6, 2011 re-run governorship elections.
Responding to day of legal twists and dramatic turn of events in the course of the trial, DPP Chieftain Chief Turner Ogboru expressed satisfaction with the way the trial had been conducted and the fact that the court finally accepted the forensic report, adding that he and his team were confident that they would get a fair hearing and there were great expectations following the conclusion of their trial case. The same views were echoed by the party chairman Chief Tony Ezeagwu, who heaved a huge sigh of relief that the forensic report was accepted as this would greatly add weight to their case in the long run.
Recall that the Delta State Re-run election Petition Tribunal had in its pre-trial sitting struck out the applications of the 1st respondent (Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan) and 2nd Respondent ((PDP), urging leave of the Tribunal to dismiss the matter instituted by Chief Great Ogboru of the Democratic People’s Party (DPP), where he is seeking the nullification of the election victory of Governor Uduaghan during the January 6, 2011 re-run governorship election ordered by the Court of Appeal which sat in Benin city, Edo state, on Novenber 10, 2010.
The petition brought before the Tribunal by Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru (Petitioner), is challenging the results declared by INEC in eight local governments and that elections were not duly conducted in those areas. The LGA’s include, Warri North, Warri South, Warri South West, Patani, Ika North East, Ethiope West, Bomadi and Isoko South. According to the lead counsel to the petitioner, Prof. Mogbayi sagay, “Our claim is that we want the petitioner to be declared the winner and in the relief being sought in the petition, we are asking that the votes that were declared from those areas were invalid votes”.
He had urged the Tribunal in the petition to remove the contentious votes and use the remaining valid votes to declare the petitioner as having won the majority of the lawful votes and also having won 25 percent of at least two-thirds of the remaining local government areas in accordance with the Electoral Act 2010 and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended.
The tribunal had then ordered all parties involved in the matter to conduct an inspection of the electoral materials in the custody of INEC including expert forensic and fingerprint analysis before tendering same from the Bar to the court to avoid further objections by the respondents in the matter. The materials include forms EC8A, EC8B and ballot papers used for the January 6, 2011 re-run election.
The trial proper began after a pre-trial hearing and submissions by all parties before the Delta state re-run election three-man Tribunal, headed by Justice Uzoamaka Doris Ogwurike with Justices Louis Ogbonna Okereke and Bello Duwale as members respectively. The issues for the trial were then established and guidelines for the proceedings, including the timing schedule and examination of witnesses, laid down and agreed to by all the parties
The witnesses called by the counsel to the petitioner, Prof. Mogbeyi Sagay (SAN) included a former commissioner in Governor Uduaghan’s cabinet, George Timinimi, a younger brother to the newly sworn-in commissioner for environment, Barrister Eric Omare, and a host of other top politicians and business as well as a forensic and finger prints expert from the United Kingdom, amongst others.
Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan (First Respondent) will conduct his trial case from Monday July 11-Tuesday July 12, 2011, according to the agreed time table and the local governments being challenged by the PDP are: Udu, Uvwie, Ughelli North, Ughelli South and Ethiope East. Initial reports suggest that his counsel is expected to call over 100 witnesses, including expert witnesses in the course of the trial.
Delta State commissioner for housing and erstwhile Director General of Uduaghan campaign organization, Chief Paulinus Akpeki is fully convinced that the first respondent (Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan) and the second respondent (PDP) will pursue the matter to its logical conclusion and was sure of victory, because they too have issues at the Tribunal that the first petitioner (Chief Great Ogboru) and his party (DPP) were yet to clear to any satisfactory conclusion.
Those present at the tribunal to witness the proceedings included the Secretary to the Delta State Government, Comrade Ovuozuorie Macaulay, Commissioner for Women Affairs, Mrs. Betty Efekhoda and Commissioner for Housing Chief Paulinus Akpeki, as well as other aides to Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan.
Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) candidate in the Delta State Re-run election of January 6, 2011, has finally been granted leave to proceed with his election petition, challenging the victory of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan in that election.
This relief came by way of the dismissal of Applications filed by counsels to Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Delta state, on July 5, 2011, asking the Delta Re-run elections tribunal to strike out the petition of Chief Great Ogboru which seeks to establish that the results of the January 6, 2011 Re-run elections in Delta State should be set aside as it was not a true reflection of the polls and that he Chief Ogboru should be declared the winner of that election.
The tribunal Chairman, Hon Justice Doris Uzoamaka Ogwurike, supported by Hon. Justice Louis Ogbonna Okereke and Hon Justice Bello Duwale as members, ruled that the Applications filed by Ken Mozea (SAN), lead counsel to the First Respondent (Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan), was similar to the Application earlier filed by counsel to the Second Respondent (PDP), represented this time by Charles Ajuyah (SAN), and since that particular Application had already been struck out, the tribunal, after having listened to robust arguments from all the parties in the matter, also deemed it appropriate to strike out the new application by the first respondent.
Prior to the striking out of the Application on the competence of the petition, the tribunal had on July 4, 2011, established that each of the four parties involved in the matter would have two days each to procecute their cases including the examination of witnessess and presetation of all relevant evidence in support of their matters.
The Court had then proceeded to identify the issues for trial only to be informed by the First, Second and Third respondents that they had not prepared any issues , hinging their action on their participation in previous tribunals where they were only mandated to respond to issues as presented by the petitioner.
Justice Uzoamaka Ogwurike then adjorned proceedings till later in the day to give them time to file their issues but when it became obvious that the were still not ready by the end of the day, the Court adjourned the till the next day to take the issues.
Tribunal resumed sitting on July 5, 2011, to identify the issues and was further compelled to entertain three new applications by the First respondent. The Two Issues for the Trial proper as agreed by all the parties to the matter are; (i) The Competence and Jurisdiction of both the Court and the Petition and (ii) The issue of who scored the highest number of votes in the January 6, 2011 re-run elections and fulfilled the requirements of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic as ammended and the provisions of the Electoral act 2010 as ammended.
The Court then entertained the Three Applications by the First Respondent, represented by Lead Counsel Ken Mozia in respect of the following: (i) Enlargement/ Extention of time to enable them apply for better and further particulars, (ii) Issuance of Subpoena to the Delta state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), to tender all relevant documents to the Court and (iii). To strike out and dismiss the Petition on grounds of incompetence, and on further grounds that the petition was academic, spent, hypothetical and of no probative value, amongst submissions. The application also stated that the tribunal does not possess the jurisdiction to adjudicate on and countenance the petition.
On the First application regarding the Extention of time, the counsel to the Petitioner, Mogbeyi Sagay (SAN) had expressed his vehement opposition to the application and argued robustly that it was a waste of time, even as he alleged that the first respondent was wrongfully employing a court process whose intention was to deliberately irritate, annoy and frustrate the other party, an accusation which the first respondent objected to passionately.
The petitioner recalled that in striking a similar application by the Second Respondent (PDP) the day before, the Court had consented to grant them leave to present the matter again in their final addresses but since the matter had now been represented in the form of a similar application by the First respondent, he was praying the Court to regard both applications as the same and not only strike it out but to dismiss it outrightly.
Hon. Justice Uzoamaka Ogwurike in her ruling observed the similarity in the petition of the first repondent to that of the second respondent and summarily struck out the application by invoking the same statute on which the ealier petition had been struck out.
All the parties then agreed on the second application to Subpoena the Delta state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) to tender all relevant materials in the course of trial, but a heated exchange ensued between the Petitioner and the first respondent over the third application which was on extention of time.
The petitioner, Mogbayi Sagay recalled that a similar application by the Second respondent (PDP) had been struck out only the day before by the Court. He then cited relevant sections of the Electoral Act (ammended), the Rules and Guidelines of the Election petition tribunal and several cases, some of which had already been referenced and invoked to strike out the earlier application and reminded the Court that it cannot rule against itself on the same application, even if it was brought by another respondent, a matter which the first respondent, Ken Mozea had stressed in his response to the petitioner’s argument.
Hon. Justice Uzoamaka Ogwurike, in her ruling, struck out the application by invoking the same statute on which the ealier petition had been struck out and dismissed it outrightly.
The Court then granted an extention of time for the inspection of election materials by an extra 24 hours to Wednessday July 6, 2011, following an observation by the Petitioner that the inspection could not be concluded in two days (July 4-5, 2011), which had earlier been granted by the Court since the process had not commenced as early as had been expected, but the willingness of the INEC officials to put in extra hours to complete the job satisfactorily had given them the assurance that the 24 hours extention would be sufficient to conclude the inspection. All the parties agreed to the extention.
With the two issues for trial already agreed upon by all the parties, the Court then fixed the dates for the trial proper, in accordance with the agreed procedure that each party in the matter will have two days to do their case. The Dates are: Friday, 8 and Saturday 9 July 2011 for the Petitioner (Great Ogboru); Monday 11 and Tuesday 12 July, 2011 for the First respondent (Emmanuel Uduaghan); Wednessday 13 and Thursday 14 July 2011 for the Second respondent (PDP Delta); and Friday 15 and Saturday 16, July 2011 for the Third respondent (INEC).
All other proceedings including the filing and adoption of all written submissions as well as the dates for final addresses and Ruling will be done between the 17th and 25th of July 2011, when the time limit for the tribunal is expected to elapse.
The Court also ruled that in view of the time limit which is very central to the proceedings, all parties should endeavour to call only essential and indispensable witness. The Court equally established that no ajournments would be granted to any party for witness who are not available on the days designated for their cases, no adjourments would be granted to any party for the appearance of new counsel, no further applications would entertained during trial proper unless on exceptional grounds and a specific time limit would be alloted for each witness, which all partys shall adhere to strictly, amongst other rules. All the parties concured with the Tribunal and Hon Justice Uzoamaka Ogwurike adjourned sitting till Friday July 17, 2011.
The final dismissal of the application to strike out the petition by Chief Great Ogboru, challenging the results of the January 6, 2011 Re-run election in Delta state and indeed, the setting down of the dates and rules of engagement for the trial proper, brought the curtain down on what had been a vigourous and oftentimes heated Pre-trial proceedings, during which the Tribunal Chairman, Hon. Justice Doris Uzoamaka Ogwurike had cause to admonish Counsels for all the parties, especially the respondents on their conduct and responses in the cause of arguments.
Recall that Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru had filed a petition on January 27, 2011, challenging the results of the January 6, 2011 Re-run elections in Delta state and the declaration of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan as the Governor following from that election. The petition had also challenged the elections and results in 8 (Eight) Local Government areas and had prayed the tribunal to count the votes in the remaining 17 local government areas and on the basis of who scored the highest number of votes declare him, Chief Great Ogboru as the winner of the re-run election. The first respondent, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan was challenging the results from 5 (Five) Local government areas, while the Second and Third Respondents (PDP, Delta and INEC), were joined as parties to the matter.
Emmanuel Uduaghan of the PeoplesDemocraticParty (PDP) was declared the winner of the January 6, 2011. Delta state governorship re-run with a total of 275,253 votes to beat Great Ogboru of the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) who scored 138,244 votes while Chief Ovie Omo-Agege of Republican Party of Nigeria (RPN) came third with 7,481 votes.
The Delta state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Dr. Gabriel Ada, who was the Returning Officer, had in declaring Uduaghan the winner of that ere-run election, said that: “Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan having satisfied the requirements of the law and having scored the highest number of votes is hereby declared the winner and hereby returned”. This is exactly what Chief Ogboru is challenging in his petition.
Several issues, including the parlous state of the tribunal structure and premises and some alleged security concerns as well as the run-up to the April 2011 general elections, which had earlier been slated for February, may have contributed to the delay in the commencement of proceedings for the tribunal, but sunsequently a three-member panel was eventually constituted to hear the case.
The panel has Justice Uzoamaka Doris Ogwurike as Chairman. Justices Okereke Louis Ogbonna and Bello Duwale are members. Justice Ogwurike had said that the delay in the commencement of the tribunal was due to the renovation exercise at the, but on Saturday July 2, 2011, the tribunal finally began sitting in Asaba, the Delta state capital.
The ammended 1999 Constitution and Electoral Act stipulates a 180-day timeline for tribunals to commence and conclude all proceedings including the writing of their judgments from the date of filing of petitions, and since Chief Great Ogboru had filed his petition on January 27, 2011, the Delta State Re-run Elections Tribunal has till July 25, 2011 to conclude all proceedings in respect to the petition filed by the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) and Chief Great Oveje Ogboru.
Speaking after the conclusion of the pre-trail proceedings a DPP Chieftain and brother of the petitioner, Chief Turner Ogboru expressed satisfaction with the way the tribunal had conducted the proceedings, irrespective of some strategies which he alleged had been visibly employed by certain parties to prolong the pre-trial deliberations and delay the commencement of the hearing proper.
Said he ‘The Tribunal has been very fair, firm, purposeful and determined to make the best out of the time available to prosecute this matter. This is indeed a refreshing departure from what we have been used to seeing here and i must commend the Tribunal for this. We are very impressded’
Accroding to him, all hands must be on deck now that the date for the trial has been fixed by the tribunal. “We are relieved that the dates have finally been fixed for the hearing to commence, but what this means to us is that now is when the real work begins. We are going to work round the clock to ensure that no stone is left unturned in our preparations. We have been with this case for the past four months, waking up and sleeping with it. Records and necessary materials have already been frontloaded and i doubt if there is any new evidence in the case that we do not know about”.
Ogboru was also quite pleased with the way the inspections have been conducted, adding that forensic and finger prints experts from the United Kingdom amongst others were working with all the relevant authorities to ensure that the inspections were done satisfactorily.
Speaking further Turner Oboru said ,“We are well aware of the time constraints and no matter what happens we must finish the case at the expiration of the 180 days. That is what the constitution says and nobody can change it. We are confident that this can be achieved, especially from the emphasis the tribunal has placed on all the parties on the need to be time conscious. In fact from the way things are going we are very sure that the era of ‘Ghana must go’ tribunals is now over in Delta state”, he said.
These same views were also echoed by the Chairman of the DPP Delta state, Chief Tony Ezeagwu, who hailed the tribunal for the purposeful and firm manner it had handled proceedings.
According to Ezeagwu “ We are very pleased because the tribunal has restored our faith in the juduciary and given the petioners hope that they will get a fair hearing. This has never happened before in our state and we must commend the tribunal for the way it has handled the pre-trial proceedings”.
A PDP Chieftain and Commissioner in Delta state Chief Paulinus Akpeki was however unpertubed by the euphoria in the DPP camp and welcomed the decision of the tribunal with stoic diplomacy.
According to him, “We have a case to do and we will do it. That is what the law says and we will face it squarely.”
And so, as the inspection of materials conclude today, Wednessday, July 6 and the Tribunal Chairman and members, as well as all the parties in the matter take a well deserved from each other, Deltans are waiting with bated breath to welcome the resumption of proceedings on Friday July 8, 2011and folow it all the way to the end of the 180 days when judgement is expected to be given, one way or the other in this highly charged case which has been going on in intriguing installments since 2007.