The Delta State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, sitting at High Court 3, beside Grand Hotel, in Asaba, the state capital, has fixed June 30, for ruling for a Preliminary objection filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) against the petition brought by All Progressive Congress (APC) and Labour Party (LP) challenging the results of the governorship election in the state.
Three petitions are before the three-man tribunal headed by Justice Nasiru Gunmi, challenging the declaration of Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) as winner of the April 11 governorship election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The petitions were filed by Chief Great Ogboru of Labour Party, Olorogun O’tega Emerhor of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and Mr. Paul Isamade of Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN).
At the resumed hearing on Tuesday June 23, 2015, in Asaba, Justice Gunmi after hearing the submissions of Dr. Alex Iziyon (SAN), lead counsel to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, on his preliminary objections to the petitions of APC and LP, on the issues of jurisdiction and the need for pre-trial conference, fixed 30th June 2015, for ruling.
Iziyon in his preliminary objection had asked the tribunal to terminate the petition because it lacks merit, having been abandoned for failure to apply for re-hearing notice as provided for under paragraph 18 (1) of the Electoral Act 2014 as amended.
He urged the court to look at the nature of the objection, “as it is fundamental and touches on the spinal cord of the petition”, adding that respondents in their objections have complied with what Supreme Court had stipulated in paragraph 12(5) of the electoral act.
Iziyon averred that the tribunal cannot collapse the hearing of the preliminary objections into the substantive matter as the pre- hearing will enable the court to address all the court process to determine whether they are competent or not.
He pointed that in compliance with the new time frame, the pre-hearing has provided a platform, even with new submissions, for controlling and managing the tribunal procedures expeditiously, eves as he allayed the fear of the tribunal that whichever way the pendulum of justice may swing in the determination to entertain the pre-hearing, the subsequent appeals of such decision will not truncate the proceedings of the tribunal.
Counsel to Olorogun Emerhor Mr. Thomson Okpoko (SAN) and Counsel to Chief Ogboru Mr. Dele Adesina (SAN) respectively, prayed in their arguments that the court should not to allow the tribunal to go through the pre- hearing as that will amount to a waste of time for the court.
Okpoko, citing section 12(5) of the electoral petition Tribunal Act , told the court that election petition has time limits, adding that at the rate with which motions are been filed to terminate his petition is such if allowed , will prevent the court from hearing the case on its merits.
Adesina in his own submission told the court that section 285(6) of Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria limits the tribunal to 180 days , adding that time is of extreme essence to the hearing and determination of the petitions, which if not considered will amount to fundamental injustice to the petitioners.
Justice Nasiru Gunmi, then fixed June 30 for ruling on the application by PDP to entertain pre-hearing.
Delta Election Tribunal watchers will recall that the three-man Delta State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Asaba and headed by Justice Nasiru Gunmi, had on Wednesday, May 30, 2015, granted the ex-parte motion of the petitioners seeking a substituted service of the originating processes and all other processes on the respondents to the petition.
The Three petitions filed by Chief Great Ogboru of Labour Party, Olorogun O’tega Emerhor of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and Mr. Paul Isamade of Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), challenging the declaration of Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) as winner of the April 11 governorship election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), were the subject of the ruling.
In the application filed by Chief Ogboru and the Labour Party on May 5, 2015, the tribunal had ordered that the originating processes should be served on the respondents by either serving the processes on the state secretary of the PDP or any principal officer of the party or by pasting same at the state secretariat of the PDP on Mariam Babangida Way, Asaba.
In the case of Plorogun Emerhor and APC, the tribunal had granted the prayers of the applicants, directing that the processes should be served by pasting same at the last known addresses of the respondents which are located at Owa-Oyibu in Ika North-East council area and No. 1, Core Area, Anwai Road, Asaba.
Also granted was the application by Mr. Isamade and the ACPN in which the tribunal ordered that the processes should be pasted at conspicuous places at the secretariat of the first respondent (INEC), residence of the second respondent (Okowa) and state secretariat of the third respondent (PDP).
Counsel to Ogboru, Ediri Diejomaoh, Counsel to Emerhor, Joseph Omonoseh, and counsel Isamade, Kehinde Edun had in their preliminary presentations, told the tribunal that the respondents were evading service, hence the application.