..as leaking tribunal building roof interrupts sitting
BY TIMOTHY AGBOR OSOGBO
Following the nullification of the candidacy of Governor Gboyega Oyetola by a Federal High Court, Osun State Governor-elect, Senator Ademola Adeleke, the Peoples Democratic Party and Independent National Electoral Commission, on Thursday, urged the State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal to discontinue hearing of the petition filed by Oyetola against the victory of Adeleke at the July 16 governorship election.
In separate applications, the trio prayed for the dismissal of the petition based on the already appealed Federal High Court judgement disqualifying Oyetola from contesting the election.
But, counsel for Oyetola and the APC, Alhaji Lasun Sanusi, SAN, at the sitting of the tribunal on Thursday, argued that Adeleke, PDP and INEC’s reliance on a Federal Court High judgement was nothing but an abuse of court process.
Citing Supreme Court decisions in the case of Jegede Vs INEC, 2021, 14NWLR, Pt 1797, page 409, the counsel said the court had ruled that the signatories to the letter conveying the nomination of a candidate are not the nominators; and rather, the nomination is done by party members at the Congress, hence, the judgement could not stand.
He also cited the case of APM Vs INEC, 2002 NWLR, Pt 18 Page 159, arguing that the application to dismiss the petition on the basis of the judgement was an abuse of court process and an effort in futility.
In their separate arguments, counsels for INEC, Professor Paul Ananaba, SAN; counsel for Adeleke, Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, and counsel for the PDP, Dr. Alex Izinyon, SAN, all agreed that any decision that the tribunal would take on the matter would have to wait until the Appeal Court and the Supreme Court decide on it.
They said they just decided to argue the applications with a view to having it on record, a position which the tribunal agreed with and put on record.
Also, in other applications totalling nine by the three respondents, they asked the tribunal to strike out some paragraphs of the petition on the grounds that they were either lumped together or not related to the 2022 election.
Responding to each of the applications, Sanusi, SAN, said all the cases cited by the respondents were misconceived, saying they were not applicable in the instance case.
He specifically cited the case of INEC Vs Otti, 2016, 8NWLR, where the Supreme Court hinted that INEC was supposed to be neutral, arguing that all the processes filed before the panel have not portrayed the Commission’s neutrality.
He further argued that the applications filed by the respondents were only meant to prevent the tribunal from focusing on hearing the petition on merit, asking the panel to dismiss the applications.
Meanwhile, the tribunal ended the pre-hearing session, on Thursday, as counsels for all parties in the matter agreed to commence the full hearing starting with calling of witnesses on October 26, 2022.
In his ruling, the tribunal declared the pre-hearing session concluded and announced that the pre-hearing conference report would be presented on Monday, October 17.
Earlier, the sitting had been distrupted following the leaking of the tribunal building’s venue during downpour in Osogbo.
The leaking roof was directly over the seat of the chairman of the three-man Osun tribunal.
With the development, the seats of the election tribunal committee were shifted to avoid the judges from getting drenched.
Different parts of the courtroom were leaking due to the torrential rainfall but it couldn’t stall prevent the parties from continuing the matter.