From Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin
Edo State, governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki; his running mate, Philip Shaibu; the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that are some of the respondents in four of the five petitions filed at the Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal in Benin, would on January 11, 2021 know their fate.
The Justice Yunusa Musa-led three-member new tribunal at yesterday’s sitting within the premises of Edo State High Court on Sapele Road, Benin, gave detailed reports of the pre-hearing sittings of the last two weeks.
Justice Musa, assisted by Justices Suleiman Yahaya Abubakar and Olufunmilayo Stanley, who last week replaced the disbanded Justice Abdulrazak Abdulkareem-led three-member tribunal, disclosed that hearing in the four petitions would separately be on January 11, 12 and 13, 2021.
The newly-constituted tribunal members are sitting on the four remaining petitions, in view of the December 11 dismissal, in a unanimous ruling, of the petition by Action Alliance (AA) and its governorship candidate, Ukonga Onaivi, against Obaseki, PDP and INEC, for failing to file pre-hearing notice.
The four other petitions before the tribunal were filed by Action Democratic Party (ADP) and its governorship candidate, Iboi Emmanuel; Action Peoples Party (APP), without joining its governorship candidate, Amos Areloegbe; Allied Peoples Movement (APM), excluding its governorship candidate, Igbineweka Osamuede; and Tracy Agol, without joining her political party, the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).
Chairman of the tribunal, at yesterday’s sitting, revealed that APP and Agol would have the trial in their petitions on January 11, with the trial in APM’s petition to be on January 12, while trial in ADP’s petition would be on January 13 next year.
The four petitions sought the nullification of the September 19 re-election of Obaseki and Shaibu, while calling for fresh election by INEC, but to exclude PDP, Obaseki and his running mate, in view of the call for their disqualification over alleged forgery of their certificates.
The tribunal’s inaugural sitting took place on October 30, with the tribunal having 180 days from the date of filing the petitions to conclude hearing in the matters and deliver judgments, thereby dragging to the first week of April next year.
ADP and its governorship candidate, in the petition with reference number: EPT/ED/GOV/01/2020, with INEC, PDP, Obaseki, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its governorship candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu as respondents, prayed the tribunal to disqualify Obaseki over his controversial first degree certificate from the University of Ibadan (UI) and nullify the votes cast for him, thereby ordering INEC to conduct a fresh election involving all other qualified governorship candidates, excluding PDP and Obaseki.
APM filed a petition with reference number: EPT/ED/GOV/04/2020, excluding its governorship candidate, Igbineweka Osamuede, with INEC, PDP, Obaseki and Shaibu as respondents, while alleging irregularities during the September 19 governorship election and that Obaseki and Shaibu were not qualified to contest the poll.
APM also prayed for an order nullifying the entire governorship election of September 19, 2020 in Edo state, for substantial non-compliance with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, and the extant Electoral Act, 2010, as amended, thereby ordering a fresh election.
The petition from Agol, who hails from Okpella in Etsako East Local Government Area of Edo state, with reference number: EPT/ED/GOV/05/2020, without joining her political party, the NNPP, with INEC, PDP and Obaseki as respondents, while insisting that Edo governor was not qualified to contest the September 19 election.
Agol’s sole ground for filing the petition was that Obaseki, at the time of the poll, was not qualified to contest the election, quoting Section 138 (1) (a) of the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended, while alleging that Edo governor presented forged/false certificate to INEC, contrary to Section 182 (1) (J) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, as amended.
The NNPP’s governorship candidate also prayed for an order to compel INEC to conduct fresh election involving all the qualified candidates, excluding PDP and Obaseki, whom she alleged were constitutionally disqualified from contesting the 2020 governorship election, while the certificate of return issued to Obaseki by INEC must also be nullified.
Agol, alternatively sought a declaration that Obaseki’s participation in the election should be declared null and void, having participated in the primary election process of the APC and later the PDP, in respect of the same governorship election in Edo state.
APP, in the petition against Obaseki, PDP and INEC as respondents, with reference number: EPT/ED/GOV/02/2020, claimed that it was unlawfully excluded.
Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, earlier stated that he would not approach the election petitions tribunal on the declaration by INEC of Obaseki as the winner of the poll, where two persons lost their lives and many people were injured, with thuggery and vote-buying becoming the order of the day.
Osagie Ize-Iyamu said that he would continue with the two pre-election cases at the Federal High Court, Abuja, against the PDP, Obaseki and Shaibu, challenging their eligibility to contest the election.
Ize-Iyamu, in a press statement he personally signed, declared that the September 19 election in Edo was not free and fair, as claimed in some quarters.
Edo chapter of PDP, through its Publicity Secretary, Chris Nehikhare, however, stated that the attempt by the governorship candidate of APC in the state to justify the legal actions against the governing party in Edo (PDP), Obaseki and Shaibu was disingenuous and destined to fail.
PDP in Edo agreed that Ize-Iyamu had the right to approach the courts for whatever reason, but claimed that it was trite for him to allude to the 13 suits the PDP filed against him (Ize-Iyamu) and his running mate, Mallam Gani Audu, as the reason for his legal actions.