The Court of Appeal on Thursday in Benin set aside a decision by the Election Petitions Tribunal baring itself from entertaining matters on candidates’ qualification.
The tribunal, then headed by Justice Suleiman Ambrussa, on September 27 ruled on the issue of the qualification of Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole to contest the July 14 governorship election by Peoples Democratic Party’s candidate, Charles Airhiavbere. It had argued that it was a pre-election matter.
The Appeal court, in a unanimous decision, also dismissed a cross-appeal by Oshiomhole, describing it as mere “academic matter”.
The court ordered that Airhiavbere’s petition should be referred to the lower tribunal for a fresh trial.
Chairman of the three-man panel, Justice Helen Ogunwumiju, in her lead judgement ruled that the Acting President of the Court of Appeal should reconstitute the tribunal to hear Airhiavbere’s petition, saying that there were triable issues in his petition.
The court held that the tribunal was wrong to have held that it lacked jurisdiction to entertain the petition on the grounds that the issue of Oshiomhole’s qualification to contest the election raised by petitioner was a pre-election matter.
According to the court, the tribunal, by the provision of Section 177 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), has jurisdiction to entertain the petition.
Airhiavbere and Sunday Agwinede, commended the court, saying the judgment would strengthen democracy in the country.
A PDP chief, Jacob Idinye, described it as “good for democracy”.
He said, “It is a good development for democracy in Nigeria.”
Counsel for Oshiomhole, Omoruyi Omonuwa, (SAN), and that of the Action Congress of Nigeria, Ken Mozia, (SAN), said the ACN would study the judgment before taking the next step.