Bayelsa Election: Tribunal Fixes April 11 to Rule on Sylva’s Application to Inspect Election Materials

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Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Bayelsa State Election Petition Tribunal has fixed April 11 to rule on a motion filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) Governorship candidate, Timipreye Sylva, seeking an order of the tribunal to allow him inspect election materials used for the December 5, 2015 and January 9, 2016 election.

The Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Kazeem Alogba, gave the date after counsel in the case presented both their written and oral submissions on the motion.

Sylva and his party, the APC, in a petition, are challenging the emergence of Seriake Dickson as governor of Bayelsa State at the recently concluded election.

At the resumed hearing of proceedings at the tribunal sitting in Nyanya, a suburb of Abuja, yesterday, Sylva had through his counsel, Sebastine Hon, SAN, filed an application seeking an order of the tribunal to compel Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to give him leave to inspect the election materials used for the polls.

Some of the items the petitioner is seeking leave to inspect include; actual ballot papers used and thumb printed and counted as valid; the ballot papers recorded as spoilt; the ballot papers recorded as unused and print out of records of accreditation as captured by the smartcard reader.

Other items listed by the petitioner are: the voters’ register in all the polling units as well as the eight local government councils in the state; INEC result sheets; security reports on the election; video and audio recording of the elections and letters of complaints of irregularities and malpractices during the elections addressed to INEC.

The application which was predicated on seven grounds and supported by a nine paragraph affidavit prayed the tribunal to grant its request on the ground that INEC who conducted the polls and equally in possession of the said materials did not opposed the motion through a counter affidavit.

Hon maintained that in law, facts deposed to in an affidavit and not challenged by way of counter-affidavit are deemed admitted by the force of law.

He submitted that the counter-affidavit filed by Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), counsel to the second respondent, was misconceived and misplaced because it did not addressed the issues raised in the motion.

The petitioner’s counsel stated that it was wrong of the second respondent to have claimed that the motion was vague because the document sought to be inspected by the petitioner are well pleaded in the petition and in line with section 151 of the Electoral Act 2010.

Responding, counsel to Governor Dickson who vehemently opposed the application on the grounds that it lacks merit, urged the tribunal to dismiss the motion.

He submitted that that the prayers of the petitioner did not support what he wanted the tribunal to do for him, adding that the request was vague in that it failed to mention the author or producer of the items listed for inspection.

Oyetibo, further claimed that the application failed to give reasons on the purpose for the inspection, adding that the request is in violation of section 104 of the Evidence Act since the mandatory fee for certification of the materials have not been paid by the petitioner.

He concluded by submitting that his client is entitled to opposed the application even if INEC did not, since he is a party to the suit and the outcome of the court’s decision would directly affect him one way or the other
Oyetibo added that his client has a right to fair hearing, and therefore urged the tribunal to dismiss the application in its entirety.
INEC and the PDP however did not opposed the application as they did not filed a counter affidavit opposing the motion.

After listening to submissions of counsel in the matter, Justice Alogba adjourned till April 11, 2015, to rule on whether the request to inspect the materials would be granted or not.