Edo governorship tribunal: Legal fireworks begin

Obaseki, left and Ize-Iyamu

Legal fireworks in a petition filed before the Edo State governorship election tribunal by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, challenging the declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of Godwin Obaseki as winner of the September 28 election in the state, kicked off in Benin on Thursday.

Counsel to the petitioners – the PDP and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu- Adebayo Adelodun, SAN, set the ball rolling when he told the three-man tribunal, which is being headed by Justice Ahmed Badamasi, that his team consisting of 60 other lawyers were ready for the pre-hearing.

However, counsel to the Godwin Obaseki and All Progressives Congress (APC), who are the second and third respondents, Ken Mozia, SAN, and Adeniyi Akintola, SAN, disagreed with him, informing the court that there were pending applications that were supposed to be heard before the pre-hearing.

Counsel to the 2nd respondent, Ken Mozia, informed that he filed two applications dated November 29 and 30 seeking the termination of the petition filed by the petitioner and the second one seeking that certain paragraphs of the answers to the reply of the petitioner be struck out.

The PDP counsel, however, said that the tribunal was already in the pre-hearing session and that counsels should have filed all applications before the session, pointing out that it was possible for the tribunal to take all applications while the pre-hearing session was ongoing.

He further informed that he had filed an application dated November 29 seeking to strike out certain paragraphs of the reply of the defendants.

On his part, the counsel to INEC, Mr Okezia Ikpeazu, SAN, told the tribunal that INEC was not aware that Thursday was the date set aside for pre-hearing and that the commission did not receive any information to that effect.

The tribunal chairman, Justice Ahmed Badamasi, then fixed December 7, 2016, for hearing on the applications, ordering that parties file their applications on or before December 3, 2016, and reply on or before December 5, 2016.

Counsel to Obaseki, Mozia, joined by counsel to the third respondent, Adeniyi Akintola, SAN, further alerted the tribunal of an alleged breach by the petitioners of the condition given by the tribunal for the inspection of ballot papers used for the conduct of the governorship election

Counsel to the petitioners, Adelodun, replied that his clients have strictly adhered to the condition stipulated by the tribunal for the scanning of the ballot papers including the presence of the tribunal secretary and five representatives of the parties during scanning.

He further added that the respondents were out to frustrate the scanning process, asking the tribunal what the petitioners were supposed to do anytime the respondents failed to bring their representatives during the scanning process.

In its ruling, the tribunal restated it position on the matter, adding that the scanning should go ahead in case any party refused to present representatives during the scanning process.