The Supreme Court, yesterday, set aside the ruling of the Appeal Court which ordered the Edo State Election Petitions Tribunal to hear afresh the matter of non-qualification of Governor Adams Oshiomhole for the July 14, 2012 Edo state gubernatorial election.
Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour who gave the Supreme Court judgement said the Appeal Court erred in its ruling, as the Edo Election Petitions Tribunal which earlier struck out the paragraphs relating to non-qualification was correct in doing so.
The Supreme Court maintained that the respondent, Maj-Gen Charles Airhiavbere made an unpardonable blunder of not including the ground of non-qualification in the original pleadings at the tribunal. The apex court maintained that the court is not a father Christmas who dishes out what is not asked for and that a party is bound by his pleadings.
The Supreme Court however maintained that there is no nexus between the issue of non-qualification and alleged corrupt practices in the election, it subsequently ordered the tribunal to hear paragraph 30 of the petition which sought to disqualify votes in 61 out of 2,642 units in the state over alleged electoral malpractice.
It would be recalled that the Edo State Election petitions tribunal had, on September 27, 2012, dismissed the petition filed by Major General Charles Airhiavbere (rtd) in which he challenged the educational qualifications of Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, describing it as a wild goose chase.
In his ruling, the Tribunal Chairman, Suleiman Ambursa said the petition is a pre-election matter that ought to have been dispensed with long before the July 14, 2012 governorship election.
Mr. Ambursa had averred that in line with the provisions of the constitution, candidates are expected to submit copies of their documents to the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) before the election and that the same constitution mandates the electoral body to publish the said documents in order that any other candidate that is not satisfied with the information therein contained might approach the Federal High Court for appropriate interpretation.
Dissatisfied with the tribunal ruling, Airhiavbere approached the Appeal Court to quash the tribunal ruling and restore some paragraphs in the petition.
In its ruling given on November 15, 2012, the Court of Appeal sitting in Benin in a unanimous ruling, ordered that the petition filled by Airhiavbere be remitted to the lower Tribunal “for trial denovo.”
Chairman of the three-man panel, Justice Helen Ogunwumiju said the tribunal was wrong to have said it lacked jurisdiction on Oshiomhole’s academic qualification being a pre-election matter that should be heard by the conventional court.
The appellate court said by the provision of Section 177 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, the lower tribunal had jurisdiction to entertain Airhiavbere’s petition bordering on Oshiomhole’s qualification because the Court can hear pre-election and election matters on qualification.
Not comfortable with the Appeal Court ruling, Oshiomhole approached the Supreme Court which in its judgment, yesterday, faulted the Appeal Court ruling and upheld the decision of the tribunal.