The Osun State Governorship Election Tribunal has directed the petitioners – the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in the last governorship election in the state, Senator Ademola Adeleke – to open their case on Monday by calling witnesses.
Tribunal Chairman, Justice Ibrahim Sirajo, gave the directive, following the prayer by the petitioners’ lawyer, Paul Ananaba (SAN), to allow the petitioners some time to prepare their witnesses and bring them from Osun State.
Ananaba made the request for an adjournment till Monday after the tribunal ruled yesterday on two applications by the second and third respondents.
The PDP and Adeleke are, by their petition, challenging the outcome of the election.
They are querying the victory of the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Isiaka Oyetola, in the election.
Respondents to the petition are: the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), APC and Oyetola (first, second and third respondents).
Many people, including lawyers to the respondents who expected the petitioners to be eager to prove their case, expressed surprise at the request by Ananaba.
Respondents’ lawyers: Adesina Agbede (for the first), Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN) for the second, and Abiodun Layonu (SAN) for the third, were unhappy that Ananaba sought the postponement of hearing till Monday.
They applied for cost to, among others, compensate for the wasted time.
But, due to tribunal chairman’s intervention, to the effect that the case was adjourned till Thursday for the hearing of the applications by the second and third respondents, the respondents’ lawyers changed their minds and conceded to an adjournment.
At the commencement of proceedings around 10am on Thursday, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), who led Owonikoko for the second respondent, and Akin Olujinmi (SAN), who led Layonu for the third respondent, moved their applications, in which they prayed the tribunal to, among others, decline jurisdiction over the petition and dismiss it.
Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN) led the petitioners’ legal team, which included Ananaba.
He also adopted the petitioners’ counter-argument.
The tribunal reconvened at noon and dismissed the applications by Olanipekun and Olujinmi on the grounds that the Fourth Alteration to the Constitution, as reflected in Section 285(8), precludes an election tribunal from dismissing a petition without hearing it.
Justice Sirajo said the Fourth Alteration had altered the position of the law that existed when an election tribunal, some years ago, dismissed a petition by Jimi Agabje (now PDP’s governorship candidate in Lagos State) without hearing it.
The tribunal said under Section 285(8) of the Constitution, it was empowered to reserve ruling on all preliminary applications, including those challenging its jurisdiction, and deliver ruling at the point of judgment.
Justice Sirajo said the tribunal would stick to its earlier decision to reserve ruling on two applications argued by the respondents, which touched on the tribunal’s jurisdiction and the competence of the petition.
Adeleke, who had witnessed the proceedings till the ruling was delivered, did not return when the tribunal returned from its noon short break.
Olanipekun, Olujinmi and Ikpeazu also did not witness the afternoon proceedings.
At the commencement of proceedings after the one hour break, Justice Sirajo asked if the petitioners were ready to open their case. Ananaba, who took Ikpeazu’s place, said the petitioners needed time to get their witnesses.
He sought an adjournment to enable the petitioners bring their witnesses from Osun State.
Justice Sirajo granted Ananaba’s request and adjourned till Monday for the petitioners to open their case.