Clement Adeyi, Osogbo and Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
Osun State chapter of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has protested alleged disbandment of election tribunal panel sitting in Osogbo, the state capital.
Members of the party stormed the premises of the tribunal, at the state High Court, yesterday, with placards to protest the sudden disbandment of the panel, a few days after the party’s governorship candidate, Ademola Adeleke, filed a petition at the tribunal.
One of the party’s chieftains, Niyi Owolade, who addressed newsmen said the PDP had filed a petition on Tuesday, in which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the governor-elect, Gboyega Oyetola, and the All Progressives Congress (APC) were joined as respondents.
He further said while the first respondent (INEC) had been served, Oyetola and his party, (APC) had declined service, which compelled it (PDP) to file an application for substituted service.
Owolade, who was former Osun State attorney general, lamented that the PDP was taken aback yesterday morning when officials of the tribunal said it had been disbanded, but did not give any reason for the action or any evidence of constituting another panel soon.
“While we have been able to serve the first respondent, the second and the third respondents declined service. So, we brought an application here, yesterday, for substituted service.
“The application was to have been heard 9:00 a.m. this morning, but we were surprised to hear that the panel has been disbanded. What is even more surprising is that they disbanded a panel without replacement.
“We all know that election petition matters are sensitive. Our 180 days started counting from October 16, and Section 285, Sub-section 6 of the 1999 Constitution is clear on that.
“By the 180 days duration, the final judgment on this matter is to be delivered on or before April 15, 2019, and time is of essence.
“We are surprised that the president of the Appeal Court, who is saddled with the responsibility of constituting election tribunal, has not deemed it fit to have put in place a new panel,” he said.
Owolade demanded immediate constitution of the panel, in order to continue with the process without delay.
He said there must never be any vacuum in the pattern of constituting election panel.
Meanwhile, PDP has demanded the immediate reconstitution of the election petition tribunal.
The party, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said any further delay in the reconstitution of the panel would jeopardise the course of justice in the governorship dispute.
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The opposition party, which frowned at the disbanding of the panel by the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachwa, said if it is not quickly addressed, it could send negative signal about the judiciary.
“We, therefore, invite Nigerians to note that in our lawful effort to reclaim our stolen mandate, PDP duly filed its petition on Tuesday, October 15, 2018 in accordance with Section 285 (6) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which prescribed that judgment must be delivered on or before 180 days.
“While INEC was served, the APC and its candidate evaded service. Consequently, the PDP on Wednesday, October 17, 2018 applied for substituted service, which was slated for hearing today, Thursday, October 18, 2018, only to be informed that the panel has been disbanded on Wednesday without any reason and without providing a new panel to hear our matter.
“The Court of Appeal president should note that her disbanding of the panel without setting up a new one, is a deliberate attempt to prevent the PDP from serving the APC and its candidate and to meet the constitutional 180 days timeframe for the determination of the case at the tribunal.
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“Election petition matters are sui generis, with specific time frame allotted to various stages up to the final determination. The failure to set up a new panel to hear our application for substituted service on APC and its candidate smacks of a shenanigan to deny our party justice in the matter.
“It is also imperative to state that the 2018 Osun governorship election has become the interest of not only Nigerians but also the global community. As such, every institution that has a role in ensuring fairness and justice, particularly, the judiciary, must rise to its responsibility and not succumb to unlawful and anti-people predilections,” the PDP said.