The Court of Appeal in Abuja yesterday reversed the July 7, 2022 judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja which sacked Delta State House of Assembly Speaker Sheriff Oborevwori as the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in next year’s election.
A three-member panel of appellate court, led by Justice Peter Ige, held that the Federal High Court lacked the jurisdiction to have entertained the suit filed by David Edevbie on the grounds that the cause of action had not crystallised when the suit was filed.
While holding that the suit was premature, the appellate court added that the plaintiff ought to have waited for the PDP to have forwarded the name of Oborevwori to INEC as its candidate in the 2023 governorship election in Delta State.
The appellate court further held that Edevbie failed to prove his claim that Oborevwori supplied false and forged academic credentials and other documents to INEC in aid of his qualification for the governorship election.
It added that Justice Taiwo Taiwo (now retired) who delivered the July 7, 2022 judgment, erred when he upheld Edevbie’s claims after finding that the cause of action had not crystallised because Oborevwori’s name was not yet submitted to INEC and published.
The judgment was on the appeal filed by Oborevwori, with Edevbie, the PDP and INEC as respondents.
In the lead judgment, Justice Ige upheld the appellant’s contention that the suit filed by Edevbie was wrongly initiated, because allegations of criminal offences must be proven beyond affidavit evidences.
The judge noted that Edevbie ought to have called the institutions he claimed their certificates were forged to prove his allegations, adding that the forged certificates and other documents must be presented before the court to substantiate the allegations.
Justice Ige also held that it was not enough to prove that the certificates and other documents were forged, but the plaintiff must prove that it was the defendant himself who forged the said certificates and other documents.
He observed that even the lower court observed that neither Oborevwori nor the PDP breached the party’s guidelines as well as the Electoral Act as regards the selection and nomination of its candidate for the 2023 governorship election in Delta State.
Justice Ige noted that while Justice Taiwo acknowledged that the name of Oborevwori has not yet been forwarded to INEC as PDP’s candidate he erroneously held that the plaintiff need not wait for crystalisation of the process before going to court.
On the alleged discrepancies in the names on the certificates presented by Oborevwori, Justice Ige held that Edevbie did not only fail to prove that the names were not those of Oborevwori but also failed to show who owns those names.
“Having resolved issues 1, 2, 4 and 5 in favour of the appellant, the appeal has merit and is bound to succeed. The judgment of the lower court, delivered by Justice Taiwo Taiwo, is hereby set aside,” Justice Ige said.
The appellant court also allowed a similar appeal filed by the PDP on the same issue.
Reacting to the judgment, Oborevwori, who spoke during a thanksgiving at the Government House Chapel in Asaba, the state capital, attributed his victory to Almighty God.
The event was attended by many PDP chieftains, including the governor’s wife, Mrs. Edith Okowa.
“By the grace of God, in 2023, we shall come here again (Government House Chapel) to give thanks to God.
“We have come here to give thanks to God for giving us victory. The victory is for everybody. It is God that gives power and nobody can upturn what God had ordained.
“When we came to the chapel to celebrate the 31st anniversary of the creation of Delta State last Saturday, I promised God that if He gives me victory at the Appeal Court, I shall come to the chapel to give thanks to Him,” Oborevwori added.