By Andrew Orolua
The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its judgements on appeals challenging the elections of the Plateau State Governor, Caleb Mutfwang and three other separate appeals challenging the election of Governor Sheriff Oborevwori of Delta State.
The presiding Justice of a five man panel of the Supreme Court, Justice Inyang Okoro, said the date of judgements will be communicated to parties in the matter.
Okoro however, added that judgement will be delivered on the Plateau State governorship’s appeal before January 16 and January 22 for Delta State
The Court of Appeal had, in a recent judgment, voided the election of Governor Mutfwang who contested on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The appellate court had instead, declared Nentawe Goshwe of All Progressive Congress (APC) winner of the election.
Delta Governor Oborevwori on his part , is faced with three separate appeals filed by Kenneth Gbaji of the Social Democratic Party, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege of the APC and Ken Pela of the Labour Party (LP).
During the Supreme Court proceedings on Tuesday, the Plateau governor’s counsel, Mr Kanu Agabi, SAN, prayed the apex court to set aside the judgement of the appellate court and to affirm the decision of the election petition tribunal.
Agabi said the alleged disobedience to a subsisting orders of court, which was relied upon by the Court of Appeal, was not part of the grounds to consider in disqualifying a candidate sponsored by a political party.
He argued that the entire petition was founded on the nomination and sponsorship of his client by the PDP.
Agabi said the appellate court departed from judicial precedence of the apex court on the issue of sponsorship, which is a pre-election matter.
Justice Inyang Okoro asked Agabi to address the court on the implication of the court sacking almost all the candidates that contested on the PDP platform in Plateau State over a subsisting order of a court.
Agabi said he had listed in his brief of arguments how the PDP complied with the order of the lower court.
According to him, the court below only said the compliance was inadequate because the PDP did not have the required number of delegates from local government areas in Plateau state.
“What is the effect of the subsisting order of a high court that said PDP should conduct a valid court?”, the apex court asked again.
Agabi said exhibits were tendered by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and others to show that a valid congress was held.
He added, that in any case, by the apex court’s decision, the APC had no locus to challenge the congress of another political party.
“It is important that you take a stand on this. We will go back and pray”, he added.
Counsel for the Plateau APC candidate, Prof. J.O Olatoke, was asked if the order of a high court which obviously was given without jurisdiction, can have an effect against the PDP and its candidates.
Olatoke replied that the matter of invalid congress was instituted by PDP cheiftains and was affirmed by the Court of Appeal.
Barrister Omosoya Popoola, counsel for the APC, asked the apex court to uphold the removal of the governor.
“Does the court have jurisdiction to deal with the issue of how a candidate is nominated by a political party?,” the apex court asked him.
Poopola said it is not in all cases that the court can decline jurisdiction.
After hearing the arguments of both counsels the Supreme Court reserved its judgement in the case
Verdict will be passed on or before January 16, when the appeal would elapse.
Arguing the appeal filed by Kenneth Gbaji and the SDP challenging the election of the Delta Governor Oborevwori, the lead counsel, Ahmed Raji SAN, adopted the appellant brief of argument and 10 reply briefs.
He then prayed the court to allow the appeal and declare the SDP candidate as winner of the election of March 18, 2023
The 1st INEC, also adopted its brief and urged the court to dismiss the appeal for lack of merit.
The 2nd to 13th respondents equally adopted their brief arguments and asked the apex court to dismiss the appeal.