It is often said that the wheel of justice grinds as slowly. So, it was today at its resumed sitting, the Governorship Petition Tribunal like a locomotive engine analogous of the wheel of justice slowly came to a halt. It took so long for the engine to halt having cranked into motion since 29th May till today 10th September 2019. It will be recalled that Obong Nsima Ekere candidate of the APC had approached the Tribunal to challenge the declaration by INEC of Deacon Udom Emmanuel, the PDP candidate winner of the Governorship election.
During the trial, the Tribunal sat 25 times diligently recording proceedings. It heard from both sides, received documentary evidence as well as oral testimonies from 46 witnesses called by the Petitioner, 31 witnesses called by 1st and 2nd Respondents (Udom Emmanuel and PDP respectively) while INEC did not call any but rather relied on the witness testimony of 1st and 2nd Respondents. At its last sitting on Tuesday, 27th August 2019 Tribunal adjourned till today,10th Sept. for presentation of final addresses by counsel to the parties.
Tribunal went straight into business of the day soon after observation of the tradition of court. That is, case mentioned; presence of Parties acknowledged and appearances announced by counsel. To set the tone and put the records straight for commencement of proceedings, Tribunal Chairman, Justice A. M. Yakubu announced the processes file before the Tribunal by Parties. He mentioned that both 1st and 2nd Respondents filed 5 processes each and 3rd Respondent filed 4 and proceeded to enumerate the processes to the satisfaction and confirmation of the parties. The Petitioner, according to the chairman filed 7 processes. He enumerated same which was acknowledged accordingly.
Counsel to 1st Respondent, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN) confirmed receipt of the processes filed by the Petitioner and raised objections on the admissibility of the documents filed by the petitioner. He alerted the Tribunal that 1st Respondent had filed 2 objections opposing Petitioners claims in his address and prayed the Tribunal to adopt the processes filed by 1st Respondent as enumerated in the address and accede to the objection of 1st Respondent while dismissing the objection of the Petitioners.
On the merit of the case, 1st Respondent informed His Lordship that upon receipt of Petitioners address, they filed a reply dated 5th September 2019. My Lord, he said, “we respectfully adopt and rely on our addresses without prejudice to the preliminary objections. Speaking further, he said, “We urge my Lord to dismiss this objection citing Supreme Court decision 404 (2019) PDP & another v INEC & another (Un-reported delivered on 24th May 2019.
Addressing the Tribunal, Counsel to 2nd Respondent, Tayo Oyetibo (SAN) said they filed their first reply objecting to the admissibility of documents tendered by the Petitioner on 31st August 2019 to which the petitioner filed a reply in respect of 2nd Respondent’s opposition. Oyetibo (SAN) prayed His Lordship to expunge Petitioners objection citing case laws such as Alhaji Nuhu v Alhaji Ogele (2003) LPELR, University of Jos v Dr. Ike Nwaogwu (2013) and Buhari v INEC (2018). He submitted that Petitioners case was vague and appealed to the Tribunal to dismiss the petition for lack of merit.
On his part Counsel to 3rd Respondent (INEC) Silva Oguemoh (SAN) informed the Tribunal that 3rd Respondent had presented 2 written addresses of its objection to the admissibility of the documents tendered by Petitioners. He prayed the Tribunal to adopt both arguments as 3rd Respondents objections to Petitioners address. “We urge my Lord to dismiss the petition because of the apparent, clear, unpardonable and irreconcilable contradictions in the petition. He surmised that, “an analysis of facts that leads to a conclusion in law is a fact of law”.
Addressing the Tribunal, Counsel to Petitioners J. S.Okutepa (SAN) said that all the Respondents had filed objections to the admissibility of the documents tendered by the Petitioner. He proceeded to enumerate the documents filed by the Petitioner in response to objections filed by respondents stating dates and their import; all being objections to the admissibility of petitioner documents. Funny though (as stated by Okutepa SAN) was an objection raised by 2nd respondent – PDP against 3rd Respondent – INEC for providing sensitive documents to the petitioner. It is interesting to recall that these documents were procured by the Petitioner from 3rd Respondent on the subpoenaed order of the Tribunal. Okutepa (SAN) urged the Tribunal to reject the objections and documents tendered by the respondents and to dismiss every opposition to the documents tendered by the Petitioner as adumbrated in its final address.
Speaking further, Okutepa (SAN) informed the Tribunal, My Lord,”it may interest you to know that just this morning and in this Tribunal, 1st Respondent served us a document titled “1st Respondent written address in opposition to the Petitioners written address”. My Lord, we have no opportunity to react to it. We urge your Lordship to discountenance it as it is filed out of time and against the principles of fair hearing. We pray your Lordships to hold that all documents tendered by the Petitioner complied with rules of admissibility of documents as required by law. And all documents we objected to as tendered by the Respondents did not comply with the rules of admissibility of documents, front-loading and the rules of pleadings”.
On the merit of the case my Lord, “we have filed our written addresses to the 3 Respondents (Udom, PDP and INEC) all of which has been acknowledged.
To 1st Respondent final written address dated 3rd September 2019 and filed the same day.
To 2nd Respondent final written address dated 5th September 2019 and filed the same day.
To 3rd Respondent final written address dated 4th September 2019 and filed the same day.
We have written 3 sets of addresses urging His Lordships to grant the relief sought in this petition. We have also filed additional list of authorities to illustrate the flagrant abuse of the right to reply on the point of law. We rely on these authorities to urge the Tribunal to dismiss all their replies to our final address as they do not come within the purview of a written address under the law. Legally, a reply must be on point of law only and not on fresh arguments. The authority of PDP v INEC canvassed by 2nd Respondent is inapplicable and not standing on all 4s as required by law. Also, the assertion of a vague petition by 2nd Respondent should be discountenanced and the authority cited quashed for not standing the test of legal scrutiny. We humbly and most respectfully urge His Lordships to nullify this election as adumbrated in our final address.
The proceedings ended on a very courteous and congenial note with a member of the outer and inner bar making goodwill and commendation speeches.
The Tribunal adjourned indefinitely for notification of counsel on the date of ruling.
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