EKERE JUMPS LEGAL LANDMINE

The APC candidate Obong Dr. Nsima Ekere, who is contending at the Election Petition Tribunal, the illegal pronouncement by INEC of Deacon Udom Emmanuel as winner of the March 9th, 2019 governorship election made a declaration through his legal counsel, J, S, Okutepa (SAN), that:

“We must remain circumspect and vigilant; even more so, take cognizance of legal landmines along the way in our pursuit of justice. We cannot risk jurisprudential hazards and recklessness in our quest to recover our mandate”.

At its resumed sitting on Friday, 19th 2019, Okutepa told the Tribunal that the second half of its sitting on Thursady, 18th July 2019 wherein witnesses statements on oath for PW37 – PW40 were admitted in evidence and marked by the Tribunal was a nullity. The Tribunal had on the 2nd half of its sitting for that day done so without the full complements of the 3member panel of Judges that constitutes a quorum for the Tribunal. One of the Justices was reported ill and could not sit with his colleagues during the 2nd have of the day’s sitting by the Tribunal.

That notwithstanding, the Tribunal proceeded with its business and admitted evidence from PW37 – PW40. In his opinion, Okutepe (SAN) alerted the Honourable Tribunal that it erred in its action to continue the proceedings without the full complements of its 3members (one having been excused on grounds of ill-health). He said My Lord, “improperly constituted panel of judges have served to annul judgements and rulings of courts/Tribunal, submitting that proceeding with the matter without the full complement of the 3 justices will tantamount to jurisprudential hazard and recklessness. Citing the case of Kunle Kolajaiye (SAN) vs Legal Practitioners Disciplinary committee (2009), at which the Supreme Court declared the judgement of the lower court a nullity due to the absence of a member of the committee. He also cited Oyetola vs Adeleke (2019) in which the Supreme Court in a split decision of 5/2 ruled that where a member was absent for one day and later joined the proceedings, such absence rendered the Tribunal’s judgement a nullity. In his opinion, he averred, this Tribunal cannot continue with proceedings today in the absence of a member who participated in the admission of witnesses from PW1 – PW36 but PW37 – PW40 were admitted in the absence of one member. I advise that the proceedings that admitted PW34 – PW40 be expunged or set aside on grounds that it was conducted without the full complement of the Tribunal. In other words, it was lacking jurisdiction. He continued, it is trite that where such happens the Court/Tribunal that conducted such proceedings is entitled to set it aside. He referenced Peter Osalor vs Iwueze, Court of Appeal decision to support his argument. He apologised to the Tribunal for raising the matter late saying it was never too late to correct an error and get to do the right thing”.

Contentions by Respondents counsel bordering on jurisdiction of the Tribunal to reverse itself and probity of the mode of application adopted by the petitioner were rejected and thrown out as the Tribunal proceeded to rule as follows; “That oral application on the issue of jurisdiction was trite and sound law. It discountenanced Respondents arguments. Issue of jurisdiction can be raised orally without reference to Paragraph 47 of the Evidence Act citing Nyesom wike vs Dakuku Peterside and Oyetola vs Adeleke. It was wrong for the Tribunal to proceed without one (1) member. Proceedings of 18th July 2019 that admitted the witness statements of PW37 – PW40 in evidence by the Tribunal was expunged and set aside. Tribunal as presently constituted has jurisdiction to set aside proceedings till quorum is formed.

The smartness of Ekere’s legal team has thus averted a potential landmine; legally speaking.

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