The Supreme Court, on Thursday, dismissed an interlocutory appeal that was brought before it by the Delta State governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party, Chief Kenneth Gbagi.
Gbagi, who is disputing the declaration of Governor Sheriff Oborevwori of the Peoples Democratic Party as the valid winner of the governorship contest, had through his team of lawyers led by Chief Adeniyi Akintola, SAN, approached the apex court to set aside a concurrent ruling that both the Delta State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal and the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, delivered against him.
He told the court that the Justice H. C. Ahuchaogu-led three-member panel tribunal, denied him fair hearing, when it refused to admit a vital proof of evidence that he sought to tender in aid of the petition he lodged against governor Oborevwori.
The Appellant maintained that the tribunal, without recourse to the tenets of justice, rejected the document he sought to tender in evidence, among which included a gazette, on the premise that it was not pleaded in the petition.
Dissatisfied with the decision of the tribunal, Chief Gbagi took the matter before the Court of Appeal, where he also lost.
The appellate court, in a unanimous decision by a three-man panel led by Justice Muhammed Lawal Shuaibu, while upholding the ruling of the tribunal, said it was satisfied that the petitioner sought to tender the fresh evidence after all the parties had closed their case and the matter reserved for judgement.
Dismissing Gbagi’s application as an abuse of the court process, the appellate court held that the tribunal effectively exercised its discretion, judicially and judiciously.
It held that the SDP candidate failed to show how the gazette he sought to tender in evidence, was relevant to his case. However, not happy with decisions of both the tribunal and the appellate court, Chief Gbagi lodged the appeal that was dismissed by the Supreme Court on Thursday.
When the appeal was called up for hearing, a five-member panel of the apex court, led by Justice Inyang Okoro, queried Gbagi’s lawyer, Akintola, SAN, on whether it had the requisite jurisdiction to entertain the case.
The apex court noted that the 180 days that was statutorily allowed for the tribunal to determine the substantive petition, had since elapsed.
It rejected plea by counsel for the Appellant, who sought to invoke the original jurisdiction of the apex court under section 22 of the Supreme Court Act.
“The period allowed for hearing of this matter has elapsed. If the trial court does not have the jurisdiction again, what it means is that this court cannot wear the shoe of the trial court because the 180 days is gone.
“As it stands, only the final judgement of the tribunal can be appealed. This matter has become academic,” Justice Okoro noted.
In view of the development, Gbagi’s lawyer, Akintola, SAN, applied to withdraw the appeal.
Following a no-objection stance by counsel for all the Respondents, the Supreme Court accordingly dismissed the appeal.
It will be recalled that Gbagi had in his 79-page petition, prayed the tribunal to disqualify governor Oborevwori and void his election victory.
Aside from alleging that the governor tendered falsified documents to the Independent National Electoral Commission in aid of his qualification, he further alleged that the gubernatorial poll was characterised by electoral malpractices, as well non-compliance with both the 1999 Constitution, as amended, and the Electoral Act 2022.