Election petition experts and lawyers have described Thursday’s Appeal Court ruling that asked Labour Party’s gubernatorial candidate in the March 18, 2023 governorship election in Delta State and the Election Tribunal to return to the starting point again as a pyrrhic victory for Ken Pela.
They contended that there may be inadequate time for Labour Party’s petition to be heard ahead of a likely September 16 deadline that may render the suit statute barred.
A section of the media had falsely reported the Thursday’s Appeal Court ruling as declaration that Pela won the governorship election. This had elicited disbelief and confusion in Delta State for a while until it emerged that the report was a misrepresentation.
Although Pela was delighted by the ruling, lawyers say the consequences of the ruling may make his case a mere academic exercise.
“In most cases, when cases are sent to the lower Court for retrial, it is usually handled by new panel or judge. This might likely happen in this case. Invariably, a new panel may have to be constituted to hear Pela’s suit all over again. The 180 days permitted by the Electoral Act 2022 for the resolution of all election cases at the tribunal level cannot be extended by any law – executive or judicial fiat”, said Vote Umukoro, Esq, a lawyer.
Already, Pela has alluded to the imperative for a new panel as he stated in reacting to the Thursday ruling that he may ask for the new panel to seat outside Asaba.
“Between Thursday, August 31 when the Appeal Court gave the ruling and the 180 days deadline is barely 17 days. There’s not much the party can do. For a party that came a very distant third with just 48,027 votes, the prospect of a change in fortune is non-existent”, Barrister Sylvester Imonina, said, noting that the 180 days started running from the day Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori was declared the winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
“I think Pela has had his day with the brief hours the misrepresentation of the Appeal Court ruling trended . Beyond that, the suit is a mere academic exercise. The time is just not there and for a party that performed so poorly in the election, it is a vain effort”, Imonina noted.
INEC had officially announced that Oborevwori won the governorship election with a total of 360,234 votes to defeat his closest rival, Ovie Omo-Agege of the All Progressive Party (APC) who scored 240,229 votes. Pela of the Labour Party came third with 48,027 votes, while Great Ogboru of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) came fourth with 11,021 votes.