The Elections Petitions Tribunal sitting in Asaba, Delta State on Thursday turned down a request by the Labour Party governorship candidate, Chief Great Ogboru, to inspect electoral materials at the Independent National Electoral Commission’s office.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that counsel to Ogboru, Dele Adesina (SAN), had sought the permission of the tribunal to allow his client access to electoral documents at the INEC office.
But the Tribunal Chairman, Justice Nasiru Gunmi, ruled that Ogboru’s application should come by way of motion-on-notice to enable all the respondents (Peoples Democratic Party, INEC) in the matter be served and placed on notice.
Gunmi argued that putting the respondents on notice would aid the trial process “so that they can respond as there is nothing urgent in the request”.
NAN reports that there are petitions before the Justice Gunmi-led tribunal, challenging the declaration of Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa of the PDP as winner of the April 11 governorship election by INEC.
The petitions were filed by Chief Great Ogboru of the Labour Party, Olorogun O’tega Emerhor of the All Progressives Congress and Paul Isamade of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria.
At the resumed hearing of the petition filed by Ogboru’s counsel, Adesina, represented by Robert Emukpoeruo, filed an ex-parte motion seeking the leave of the tribunal to inspect elections materials.
But lead counsel to the respondents, Alex Iziyon (SAN), while objecting to the ex-parte motion, argued: “There is nothing so urgent in the matter that will warrant an ex-parte motion.”
“We want to be served and be present during the inspection so that we can know what is going on.
“We have an interest in every detail.
“We want to be properly served.
“We are ready to respond and it must be a joint inspection.”
Justice Gunmi had earlier heard arguments from Iziyon and D. A. Okpoko (SAN), counsel to Emerhor, on the desirability or otherwise for extension of time to enable the commencement of the pre-trial hearing.
Okpoko in his argument, had urged the tribunal to grant him more time to file information sheet of form ET 008, which would enable them support their petition and argument in the substantive suit.
He reminded the tribunal that it has the power to grant the application.
But Iziyon countered that the tribunal lacked the necessary legal powers to grant the application as it was prohibited by the provision of Paragraph 18(4) of the first schedule of the Electoral Act.
He said: “Even if the tribunal has such powers or discretion, it cannot grant this application since no material has been placed to justify that discretion.”
Iziyon told the tribunal that Emerhor, through his lawyer, was abusing the court process as seven fresh applications are pending before the court, which had not been argued.
He said: “We are being moved into a macabre dance in this court, as no form ET008 is before the court.
“The tribunal should dismiss the application and treat it as abandoned as there was no application for extension of time.”
In his ruling, Justice Gumi adjourned hearing till July 10 to enable the petitioners file more documents in the suit.