Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State is pressing ahead with a fresh plan to corruptly influence the verdict of a new panel of Court of Appeal justices tasked with examining the rigging of the 2015 governorship election in favor of himself.
A previous panel of appellate justices was sacked after the President of the Court of Appeal discovered that Mr. Okowa compromised its members. Even though the sitting of the newly constituted panel was moved from Benin City, the capital of Edo State, to Abuja the governor has, once again, infiltrated some of its members.
A source in Asaba, the capital of Delta State, told SaharaReporters yesterday that Mr. Okowa authorized the withdrawal of more than N530 million naira from Delta State’s accounts in Zenith Bank and EcoBank. The source claimed the sums were meant for “cooperative” members of the appellate court.
A lawyer familiar with the case told SaharaReporters that the issues in the ongoing case were “straightforward.”
Two weeks before the April 11th, 2015, election, representatives of the various political Parties visited a branch of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in Asaba, the Delta State capital, to inspect critical electoral materials. To their shock, they discovered that unknown persons had stolen several of the electoral documents. The parties then petitioned the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The Resident Electoral Commissioner in Delta State claimed he was not responsible, and then promised that he would personally endorse result sheets to ensure materials were stolen had no bearing on the outcome of the election.
Even so, after the election, INEC put the results sheets stolen from the CBN to use. Rather than wait for the final collation of the results, which ended on April 13, the PDP ensured that all the results sheets in EC 8 A for polling units, Form EC 8 B for wards, Form EC 8 C for Local Government Areas (LGAs), and Form EC 8 D had all been filled out as of April 11th. Most Party agents signed the forms, but the representatives of the Labor Party objected, declaring that the election figures were cooked in favor of Mr. Okowa.
The electoral tribunal assigned to hear petitions on the governorship election failed to act on this grave violation because, as SaharaReporters revealed, its members were thoroughly compromised by Mr. Okowa. After the tribunal upheld Mr. Okowa’s election, his opponents appealed to the Court of Appeal. However, the governor and his collaborators also infiltrated the Court of Appeal in Benin city. An investigative report by this website led to the sacking of this panel and constitution of a new one.
The new panel, headed by Justice Uwani Abba-Aji, is expected to deliver its judgment tomorrow. However, the fact that the Federal Government declared tomorrow, December 24th, a public holiday introduced an intriguing wrinkle.
“Tomorrow is the last day of the mandatory 60-day period allowed for the Appeal Court to deliver its ruling,” one lawyer told SaharaReporters. He added, “if the judgment is delivered on a public holiday, the laws says that the act is deemed to have happened on the next business day, which is Monday, 28th of December 2015. That’s way past the 60-day mark. Governor Okowa and his lawyers are calculating that they can persuade the Supreme Court to declare such a judgment invalid, thereby starting the process again.”
Former Governor James Onanefe Ibori handpicked Mr. Okowa as the PDP’s governorship candidate. Some of the lawyers representing Mr. Okowa have strong links to Mr. Ibori, who is serving a 13-year jail sentence in the UK after pleading guilty to several counts of money laundering. Two of those lawyers, Alex Izinyon and Damian Dodo, assisted Mr. Ibori in beating every prosecution in Nigeria before he ran out of luck, was arrested in Dubai and extradited to the UK to face trial for money laundering.
A number of political figures in Delta State also claim that the Chief Justice of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa might be playing games with the public by moving the ruling to Abuja in an attempt to increase the pressure on Okowa to give up more bribes to the judges. Justice Bulkachuwa, they claimed had been on Mr. Ibori’s side since the days he was let off the hook in a watertight case exposing him as an ex-convict.