The court of appeal in Abuja has ordered the Delta state governorship election petitions tribunal to hear the suit filed by Kennedy Pela, candidate of the Labour Party (LP).

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Sheriff Oborevwori, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), winner of the March 18 election in the state.

Oborevwori polled 360,234 votes to defeat his closest opponent, Ovie Omo-Agege of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who scored 240,229.

Pela came third with 48,027 votes, while Great Ogboru of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) came fourth with 11,021 votes.

Pela and his party then filed a petition challenging the result on the grounds of non-qualification of the candidates who came first and second, corrupt practices and non-compliance with the Electoral Act.

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They asked the tribunal to declare Pela winner of the election or in the alternative, annul the election and conduct a fresh one.

During the pre-hearing stage, Damian Dodo, lead counsel to the governor and his deputy, had argued in an application that the LP’s petition had been abandoned.

Dodo said the petitioner failed to avail himself of the seven-day window for a pre-hearing notice.

He added that the petitioner also failed to apply for another pre-hearing notice, thereby rendering his petition abandoned.

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Dodo said the petitioner applied for pre-hearing notice on May 19 before the close of pleadings, and as such, the petition was premature, incompetent and should be dismissed.

Ruling on the application, C.H Ahuchaogu, chairperson of the tribunal’s three-member panel, dismissed Pela’s petition.

Aggrieved by the ruling, the petitioners proceeded to the court of appeal.

Delivering judgment on the appeal, the appellate court granted the prayers of the appellants and ordered that the petition be returned to the tribunal and be heard on its merit.

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