The Supreme Court has fixed October 21, for judgment in an appeal filed by the Delta State governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 governorship election, Mister David Edevbie.
By his appeal, Edevbie is asking the Supreme Court to re-affirm his candidacy.
In a 23- ground of Appeal, Edevbie, faulted the entire unanimous decision of the three-man panel of the Court of Appeal led by Justice Peter Ige and asked the apex court to hold that he is the rightful candidate of the PDP in the Delta State governorship election slated for February next year.
A five-man panel of the apex court led by Justice Amina Augie, approved the matter for judgement, after all the parties adopted their final briefs of arguments.
While adopting his brief of argument, counsel for the Appellant, Edevbie, Mister Tayo Oyetibo, told the apex court that whereas Oborevwori had in an affidavit he deposed to, claimed that he was born in 1963, he, however, tendered a West African Examination Council (WAEC) certificate that was issued to someone that was born in 1979.
Besides, he argued that the case provided a unique opportunity for the Supreme Court to make a pronouncement on “the new legal regime introduced by section 29(5) of the Electoral Act, 2022.”
According to the Appellant, the section provided that any aspirant that participated in the primary of a political party and has reasonable ground to believe that any information given by his political party’s candidate, in relation to the constitutional requirement for qualification for the election was false, could approach the court to challenge the eligibility of the such candidate.
“Our position is that the 1st Respondent, haven supplied false information and submitted dubious certificates, he is legally precluded from participating in the election,” Oyetibo said.
“My lords will find conclusively from the evidence before this court, that he submitted false documents, in relation to section 177 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.”
Meanwhile, Counsel for Oborevwori, Mister. Damian Dodo urged the apex court to dismiss the appeal for want of merit.
He argued that the extant provision of the law is that the sort of allegations the Appellant levelled against him, must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
Dodo argued that there was no relief before the trial court for the said documents his client submitted to the PDP to be declared as false or forged.
He, therefore, urged the court to dismiss the appeal and reinstate the judgement of the Court of Appeal that recognised his client as the authentic candidate of the PDP for the governorship contest.
Similarly, PDP, through its lawyer also sought the dismissal of the appeal.
PDP argued that sections 177 and 182 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, made exhaustive provisions regarding the issue of qualification of candidates for an election.
“Submission of the forged document to a political party is not a constitutional ground for disqualification,” the PDP argued.
“The ground for disqualification is the submission of a false document to the Independent National Electoral Commission.
“The Appellant did not tarry or wait for the party to submit the name of the 1st Respondent, for his action to crystalize. His suit was premature.”
Though the INEC was cited as a Respondent in the matter, it was however not represented by any lawyer at the proceedings.
The Court of Appeal in Abuja had in its judgement on August 29, restored Oborevwori as the governorship candidate of the PDP in the state.
The appellate court, in a unanimous decision by a three-man panel of justices led by Justice Olabisi Ige, vacated the judgement of the Federal High Court in Abuja, which earlier directed INEC to recognise Edevbie as the bonafide candidate of the PDP for the election.
It held that the high court wrongly relied on Originating Summons Edevbie brought before it to disqualify Oborevwori on the premise that he tendered forged certificates to the PDP.
Delivering the lead judgement, Justice Ige noted that allegations Edevbie raised against Oborevwori “were deeply rooted and founded in criminality.”
He stressed that in view of contentious nature of the allegations, they ought to have been proved beyond reasonable doubt at the trial court.
According to the appellate court, trial Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the lower court erred when he granted all the reliefs Edevbie sought in his suit without recourse to evidence of witnesses that would have included institutions that awarded certificates to 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 1st Respondent, Edevbie.
The appellate court further maintained that Edevbie’s suit was premature as Oborevwori’s name had not been submitted to INEC by the PDP as at the time the legal action was instituted.
It held that preconditions stipulated in sections 177 and 182 (j) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, as well as 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 said the 1st 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 in the event that the case of the 1st Respondent succeeded, he would not be the beneficiary of the judgement as his political party, PDP, would have been disqualified.
Justice Taiwo of the High Court had on July 7, disqualified Oborevwori from contesting the 2023 governorship election in Delta State.
The trial court held that evidence before it confirmed that the defendant supplied false and forged documents to the PDP in aid of his qualification for the governorship election.