BREAKING NEWS: Tribunal Declares Rerun Between Ejele, Onowakpo, In Warri South
The National and State House of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Asaba, the Delta State capital, has declared rerun in areas where the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), cancelled elections particularly in the Warri axis of the State.
It would be recall that the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Michael Diden dragged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) before the National and State Houses of Assembly Election Tribunal in Asaba, Delta State over the Delta South senatorial district election.
Specifically, Honourable Diden and his party, the PDP, in their petition marked EPT/DT/SEN/ 01/2023, are asking the tribunal to void INEC’s declaration of candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Mr Ewomazino Thomas Joel-Onowakpo as Senator-elect.
They predicated their request on the grounds that Joel-Onowakpo, “was not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the election” and the his election “was invalid by reason of non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022.”
In the petition dated and filed on March 17, 2023 by their team of lawyers led by Chief Ayo Asala, SAN, the petitioners amongst others are seeking an order of the tribunal, “collating the results of the election conducted in Warri South Local Government Area to the lawful votes recorded in favour of the parties and declare the winner of the election based on the collation.”
Prof. Anthony Peretimina, Returning Officer for Delta South Senatorial Election had last month announced the APC’s candidate as winner of the Delta South Senatorial poll having scored a total of 49, 955 votes cast at the election.
The returning officer had also announced PDP’s candidate as 1st runners up having polled a total of 47, 656 votes cast at the election.
But, the petitioners faulted the Returning Officer for not complying with provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022, and the extant Regulations, Guidelines and Manual for Election Officials in the collation and declaration of the final results in the senatorial
According to them, election was held in all the eight LGAs consisting of the Delta South Senatorial District, but INEC refused to include results from Warri South LGA in its final computation of results and subsequent declaration of the APC as winner of the senatorial election in the district.
The petitioners claimed that the action of INEC despite protest from petitioners’ agents amounted to a breach of the Electoral Act, 2022 and INEC’s Regulations and Guidelines.
While stating that the LG Collation/Retuning Officer have no power to cancel and/or exclude any results validly declared at the polling unit level, they submitted that the decision to cancel results in Ward 06-Bowen and excluding lawful votes from the entire Warri South Local Government Area was contrary to relevant laws guiding the conduct of the election.
The petitioners claimed that results of contestants in the 11 wards in Warri South Local Government Area based on collation from form EC8B (1) revealed that APC polled 3,057 votes; PDP – 10,610 and the other political parties – 9,357.
“The petitioners shall contend at the hearing that after the collation of the valid votes from Warri South Local Government Area which was unlawfully excluded from the computation of the final result by the 1st Respondent, the petitioners scored a majority valid votes of 58,266 as against the 2nd Respondent’s valid votes of 53,012 and that having scored the majority of the valid and lawful votes cast at the said elections, the 1st petitioner is the winner of the said election and duly elected and returned as the Senator representing Delta South Senatorial District in the National Assembly.”
In further faulting the return of Joel-Onowakpo, the petitioners while observing that the margin of lead between the two leading candidates was 2,299, argued that, where the margin of lead between the two leading candidates in an election is NOT in excess of the total number of collected Permanent Voters Cards (PVC) in polling units where elections are not held or cancelled, the Returning Officer shall decline to make a return until polls have taken place in the affected polling units and results collated into the relevant forms for Declaration and Return.
According to the petition, the total number of registered voters in Warri South Local Government Area where INEC claimed that the total election conducted therein were cancelled and therefore not collated for the purpose of final declaration was 187,140, while the total numbers of collected Permanent Voters Card (PVC) from Warri South Local Government Area where election did not hold and/or was cancelled is 162,082.
The petitioners averred that from the margin of lead between the 1st Petitioner and the 2nd Respondent, which is 2,299, it is very clear that the numbers of registered voters and/or numbers of collected Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) from Warri South Local Government Area exceeded the margin of lead between the 1st Petitioner and the 2nd Respondent.
The petitioners therefore prayed the tribunal to declare that the 2nd Respondent was not duly elected or returned by the majority of lawful votes cast at the senatorial election
“A declaration that the decision of the 1st Respondent to cancel and exclude the result of the election duly conducted in Warri South Local Government Area, being one of the eight (8) Local Government Areas making up Delta South Senatorial District, is wrongful and constitute substantial non-compliance with the mandatory provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022.”
They, among others, urged that the tribunal in the Alternative declare the election inconclusive and order for a supplementary election to be held in Warri South Local Government Area, where election did not hold and/or cancelled.