Plateau Governorship: Tribunal flays absence of Useni’s witnesses, threatens to dismiss petition against Lalong


The Plateau State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Jos on Wednesday flayed the absence of witnesses in the petition by Jeremiah Useni challenging Governor Simon Lalong’s victory at the March 9 poll.
Useni, a retired Lieutenant General in the Nigerian Army and former FCT Minister, contested the Plateau governorship election as candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party but was defeated by Lalong, the incumbent.
The PDP candidate subsequently filed a petition at the tribunal challenging the outcome of the election and having APC and the Independent National Electoral Commission as co-respondents.
At the resumed hearing of the petition, the tribunal described the petitioner as unserious in the pursuit of his case following his lead counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome’s (SAN) request to tender some documents instead of leading the witnesses in evidence.
Ozekhome told the tribunal that the witnesses expected from Shendam, Qua’an pan and Jos East Local Governments could not make it to Jos.
He subsequently asked for a adjournment till July 11 to enable the expected witnesses to be available in Jos for their testimonies to be taken.
However, the tribunal said that petitioner had ended up wasting the whole day of all that were present.
He said: “This Tribunal is here for serious business and nothing else, so, we expect you people to be very serious, more so that this is your case.
“The day is still very young and you have taken 10 days out of your time already and here you are asking us to adjourn.
“This application is unnecessary because time, which is of essence is not on our side. If you are not serious with the case we shall have to wield the big stick.
“If this kind of unnecessary time wastage happens again, we shall not hesitate to close the petitioners case and dismiss it.”
After listening to all the respondents’ counsel, the tribunal admitted the documents tendered as exhibits and marked them appropriately.
It advised the petitioners to prepare well to take their remaining witnesses on the next adjourned date and adjourned the case to Thursday, July 11 for continuation of hearing.
Earlier, Lalong’s lead Counsel, Pius Akubo (SAN) and that of APC, Garba Pwul (SAN),had strongly opposed the application for adjournment on the ground that the witnesses being expected were not coming from places far from Jos metropolis.
Pwul stated: “My Lord, we are opposing this application on the ground that it’s a ploy to just waste our precious time.
“This is a serious business and we should be seen to be serious. It’s unfortunate that the whole day will be spent on tendering of documents.
“We wish to apply to your Lordship to wield the big stick on the Petitioners for wasting our precious time in Court today. The day is very young yet they want to waste it for us.
“The law gives your Lordship the power to dismiss this petition if the petitioners fail to do the needful because we have a practice direction and time limit, which shouldn’t be bastardised.”
However, INEC lead counsel, Clement Onwenwnor, did not object to the application for adjournment.