The Edo State governorship election petition tribunal sitting in Benin City Thursday aborted hearing on the pre-hearing petition filled before it.
The tribunal instead fixed December 7, 2016 to hear all applications relevant to the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governorship candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
Pastor Ize-Iyamu is challenging the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, results which gave victory in the September 28, 2016 election to the All Progressives Congress, APC, candidate, Governor Godwin Obaseki.
Chairman of the 3-member tribunal, Mr Justice Ahmed Badamasi, in the company of the other two members, after taking pleas from all the counsels present said that the tribunal was not aware that Thursday was the set date for the pre-hearing.
Proceedings at the tribunal had commenced at about 9.35am when Mr Adebayo Adelodun, SAN, counsel to the PDP candidate, who led a team of 59 other lawyers, said they were set to commence the pre-hearing.
However, counsel to the APC candidate, Governor Godwin Obaseki, Chief Niyi Akintola, SAN, leading 36 other lawyers, said he had a motion on notice which the tribunal should hear.
He told the tribunal that there was need for it to hear the application before the pre-hearing session commenced. He also said the tribunal ought to conclude hearing all applications and motions before it can proceed to the pre-hearing session.
In a similar vein, counsel to the APC, Mr Ken Mozia, SAN also said he had pending motions before the tribunal including one which is asking for an order of the tribunal “summarily terminating the petition”.
He said the other application which was before the tribunal was asking that it, “strike out some paragraphs of the petitioner’s replies”, to his client’s replies to the petition.
Mozia then asked the tribunal for a date outside the pre-hearing for the tribunal to hear his application, stressing that the tribunal should emphasize the timeous service to counsels.
The PDP counsel said the tribunal was already in the pre-hearing session and that counsels should have filed all applications before the session, adding that the tribunal was in a position to take all applications even while the pre-hearing session was on.
He also objected to the applications referred to by the Counsels to both the APC and Governor Obaseki on grounds that, they were filed Thursday morning when the pre-hearing had been scheduled.
On his part, the Counsel to the INEC, Mr Onyebuchi Ikpeazu, SAN, told the tribunal that INEC was not aware that Thursday was the set date for pre-hearing.
He said they were not in the court for pre-hearing because the commission did not receive any information to that effect.
In the end, the PDP counsel said that none of the applications by either the APC or Governor Obaseki’s counsels could be heard Thursday as he received their motions very late.
The tribunal chairman then ruled that all parties should file necessary applications, reply to the ones already served on them and come back on December 7, 2016 so that the tribunal can take all the applications.
Mr Mozia had alerted the tribunal to what he called a breach of its earlier order with regards to parties’ interaction with ballot papers and called for a reaffirmation of the orders.
Chief Adebayo on his part concurred with Mozia and added that the orders of the tribunal on the issue of ballot papers was not complied with.
To these counsel to the PDP told the tribunal of the challenges his clients faced amounting to an attempt to frustrate their petition.
He said one such challenge was the APC’s insistence that each of their 5 representatives must examine the ballot paper, an action he argued was time wasting.
In the end the tribunal chairman said that its earlier orders were in order adding however that no party should be excluded from the inspection of the ballot papers