Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Makurdi, the Benue State capital has reserved for on ruling preliminary objection brought by Governor Samuel Ortom of the People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) praying it to strike out the petition of the All Progressives Congress (APC’s) governorship candidate in the state 2019 general elections, Emmanuel Jime.
Jime had approached the tribunal to challenge the return of Ortom as governor of Benue State with Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and PDP also joined in the petition.
At the resumption of prehearing on Friday, Ortom, who was represented by Edward Ashiekaa (SAN), urged the tribunal to strike out certain paragraphs of Jime’s application on the grounds that they were offensive.
Ashiekaa who contended that entertaining the petition would amount to waste of time and therefore urged the tribunal to strike out same.
Neither INEC nor PDP opposed the application. However, Jime’s lead counsel, Sunday, Ibrahim Ameh, opposed the preliminary objection by filling a 19 paragraph counter affidavit arguing that it lacks merit.
Ameh said Jime’s petition was in compliance with Paragraph 12(5) of the first schedule to the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and Section 285(a) of the 1999 Constitution and therefore, urged the tribunal to hear the petition on its merit.
Chairman of the panel, Hon Justice Adebola Olusiyi, adjourned ruling on the preliminary objection to be delivered on the day of judgment.
In another round of application, a heated argument ensued when INEC counsel E. O. B Offiong, prayed the tribunal to reject what he described as an attempt to “smuggle” in witness statement.
The INEC’s counsel contended that Jime failed to file the witness statement with respect to the governorship election in Guma and Ushongo local government areas along his petition.
He further submitted that the petitioner had not made any reference in his reply to the 1st respondent’s reply anywhere to the effect he did not attach any witness statement in his petition with respect to Guma and Ushongo.
Offiong, who is praying the tribunal to strike out the witness statement with respect to Guma and Ushongo, argued that allowing same would amount to imposing injustice on the respondents, stressing that the action of the petitioner negates the principle of fair hearing.
Both INEC and PDP did not oppose the application. But Jime’s lawyer, Ameh, stated that, “the petitioner vehemently oppose the application” with a 14- paragraph counter affidavit filled on 29th May, 2019.
He argued that the respondent’s submission that the petitioner did not file along with the petition witness statement from Ushongo and Guma was not true.
According to Ameh, witness statement respecting the outcome of Benue governorship election from Guma filed alongside the petition could be found on pages 620 to 621 and 628 to 629, Vol III of the petition which is before the tribunal.
The tribunal chairman adjourned sitting till the 4th of June to rule on the application.