The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja has reinstated the speaker of Delta House of Assembly, Sheriff Oborevwori, as the state’s governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In a unanimous judgement by a three-man panel of Justices led by Olabisi Ige on Monday, the appellate court vacated the judgement of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court.
The high court judgement directed the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to recognise Olorogun Edevbie as the rightful candidate of the PDP for the governorship election in Delta in 2023.
However, the appellate court held that the high court wrongly relied on originating summons Mr Edevbie brought before it to disqualify Mr Oborevwori on the premise that he tendered forged certificates to INEC.
Delivering the judgement, Justice Ige noted that Mr Edevbie’s allegations against Mr Oborevwori “were deeply rooted and founded in criminality”.
He stressed that the contentious nature of the allegations ought to have been proved beyond a reasonable doubt at the trial court.
According to the appellate court, trial Judge Taiwo Taiwo of the lower court erred when he granted all the reliefs Mr Edevbie sought in his suit without recourse to evidence of witnesses that would have included institutions that awarded certificates to Mr Oborevwori.
“Facts were irreconcilably in conflict and could not have been resolved without oral evidence,” the appellate court held, adding that the burden of proof in the matter was on the first Respondent, Mr Edevbie.
“There is no scintilla of evidence on record to prove that the appellant tendered forged certificate to the INEC,” the appellate court added.
It further held that Mr Edevbie’s legal action was premature as the speaker’s name had not been submitted to INEC by the PDP at the time it was filed.
The appellate court held that preconditions stipulated in sections 177 and 182 (j)of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, and section 29(5) of the Electoral Act, must be met before the right of any aggrieved aspirant to approach the court to challenge the validity of particulars submitted to INEC by any candidate, could crystallise.
It held that the first Respondent did not, in the entire spectrum of his suit, pinpoint how the PDP breached either the Electoral Act or the 1999 Constitution, as amended, in the governorship primary election it conducted on May 25.
More so, the court held that if the case of the first Respondent succeeded, he would not be the beneficiary of the judgement as PDP would have been disqualified.
“The decision of the lower court was perverse, and it is accordingly set aside,” the court said. “The appellant’s appeal is hereby allowed.”