By Abdul Razaq Ibrahim, Abeokuta
Governor Ibikunle Amosun of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have lost bid before Ogun State Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Abeokuta on Tuesday, asking the tribunal to strike out the petition filed before it by the governorship candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the April 11, 2015 election.
Prince Gboyega Isiaka of PDP had earlier filed an application, challenging the victory of Governor Ibikunle Amosun of APC, but the Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Henry Olusiyi, while ruling on motion on notice filed by Amosun, APC and INEC held that granting prayers contained in the applications “would amount to standing justice in its head.”
“Let me state that it is clear that prayer one of each of the applications of the first and second respondents (Amosun and INEC) having been overtaken by events, is no longer relevant and is accordingly struck out,” Justice Olusiyi ruled.
While relying on paragraph 16 (1) of the first schedule to the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) counsel to INEC, Olusina Sofola (SAN), argued that Isiaka failed to reply to his early affidavit within the five days prescribed by law.
But the counsel to PDP and Isiaka, Adetunji Oyeyipo (SAN), contended that the reply which Sofola referred to was a further counter-affidavit and not an affidavit which could only be filed within seven days.
He affirmed that the petition was still within the time for issuance of pre-hearing notice, adding that the third to 128th respondents also did not comply with the provisions of the law in their reply.
Meanwhile, issues for ruling before the tribunal include “whether the petitioners’ reply to each of the replies of the respondents was filed within time” and “whether in the circumstances, the petitioners could be deemed to have abandoned their petition.”
However, the tribunal chairman, who determined the prayers in favour of Isiaka, noted that the issues raised were technical, adding that the time of technicalities had gone in law.
Justice Olusiyi said that the petition could not have been deemed abandoned in the circumstances, pointing out that aside from technicalities, the substance in the petition would be determined.
He said, “It is also instructive to note that the petitioners filed an application for the issuance of pre-hearing notice to which all the respondents reacted by filing the requisite processes. There is no application before the tribunal for the pre-hearing session processes already filed by all the parties, including the third to 128 respondents to be set aside for irregularities.
“In the circumstances, the petitioner cannot stricto sensu be described as ‘sleeping petitioner.’ This is not a clear-cut case of abandonment do petition in the true sense of the meaning of the word ‘abandon.’
“To buy into the arguments of the learned senior counsel for the third to 128th respondents/applicants to the effect that the petition should be deemed to have been abandoned by the petitioners, when all the parties, including the third to 128th respondents, have filed all the pre-hearing session processes which have not been sought to be set aside is to allow technicalities to defeat the end of injustice.
“In the prevailing circumstances of this case, the petitioners cannot be deemed to have abandoned their petition. This is not proper case for the tribunal to hold that the petitioner’s have abandoned their petition. To so hold will be standing justice on its head.”