Delta State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal has fixed Tuesday June 30 for ruling on a preliminary objection filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) against the petition brought by All Progressive Congress (APC) and Labour Party (LP) challenging the results of the April 11 governorship election in the state.
Three petitions are before the three-man tribunal headed by Justice Nasiru Gunmi, challenging the declaration of Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) as winner of the April 11 governorship election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The petitions were filed by Chief Great Ogboru of Labour Party, Olorogun O’tega Emerhor of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and Mr. Paul Isamade of Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN).
At the resumed hearing in Asaba, Justice Gunmi after hearing the submissions of Dr. Alex Iziyon (SAN), lead counsel to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, on the issues of jurisdiction and the need for pre-trial conference, fixed 30th June 2015, for ruling.
Iziyon in his preliminary objection asked the Tribunal to terminate the petition because it lacked merits, having failed to apply for pre-hearing notice as provided for under paragraph 18 (1) of the Electoral Act 2014 as amended.
He urged the court to look at the nature of the objection, “as it is fundamental and touches on the spinal cord of the petition”, adding that respondents in the objections have complied with what supreme court has laid dawn in paragraph 12(5) of the Electoral Act.
He argued that the tribunal cannot collapse the hearing of the preliminary objections into the substantive matter as the pre- hearing will enable the court to to determine whether the suit is competent. He pointed out that the pre-hearing process is within the time management frame of the tribunal allowed by the Electoral Act, and therefore will not truncate the proceedings of the Tribunal.
Counsels to Emerhor and Ogboru, Mr. Thomson Okpoko (SAN) and Dele Adesina (SAN) respectively in their arguments prayed the court not to allow the tribunal to go through the pre- hearing as that will waste the time of the court.
Okpoko citing section 12(5) of the electoral petition Tribunal Act , told the court that election petition has time limits, adding that at the rate at which motions are been filed to terminate the petition, it could prevent the court from hearing the case on its merits if allowed.
Adesina in his submission told the court that section 285(6) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria limits the tribunal to 180 days, arguing that time is of essence to the hearing and determination of the case, which if not considered will amount to fundamental injustice to the petitioners.