Ekiti State Election Petition Tribunal May Relocate to Abuja over Insecurity

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Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti

Citing the state of insecurity around the Ekiti State High Court in Ado Ekiti, the state capital, the state Election Petition Tribunal handling the petitions arising from the July 14 governorship election in the state yesterday, resolved to relocate its sitting to outside the state.

There was heavy security around Ado Ekiti High Court yesterday, as the three-man panel of judges commenced sitting.

But despite the heavy security presence, strong indications have emerged that the sitting would be relocated to Abuja.

This development followed a demand, in the form of oral application, made by the counsel to the petitioner, Mr. Adebayo Adelodun (SAN), who cited cases of insecurity and threat to lives encountered in the hands of the crowd that gathered at the court’s gate before the commencement of the sitting.

The petitioner is the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prof. Kolapo Olusola, who is challenging the declaration of Dr. Kayode Fayemi as the

duly elected governor of the state.

The request by Olusola’s counsel was supported by both the counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Chief Charles Edosomwan (SAN), and that of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Akin Olujimi (SAN)..

The lawyers alleged that they were nearly mobbed by those suspected to be the supporters of the political parties on their way to the court in the morning.

They also noted that the attackers were not discriminatory in their assaults.The tribunal, which rose for about an hour later reconvened to deliver its ruling on the lawyers’ demand through its Chairman, Justice Suleiman Belgore.

Other members of the panel are Justices Aliyu Usman Baba and Ebiyerin Omukoro, respectively.

In his ruling, Belgore said, “Following the issue of insecurity raised by the lawyer that there was threat to human lives around the court based on his encounter with unruly crowd on his way to the court this morning and he said the venue should be relocated in view of this. And this view was not opposed by the respondents.

“Lawyers to the respondents expressed similar inclinations that the venue should be relocated to another city citing cases of insecurity to lives.

“We are critically mindful of the consequences of the applications made by the counsel to the petitioner, which was not opposed by the counsels to the respondents.

“We have rubbed minds together and came to the conclusion that this fear is real and apparent that the situation is becoming insecure and tense and we can’t trivialise such .

“We hereby grant the application because of the consequences the insecurity could have on this tribunal and the new venue shall be communicated through our secretary to all parties within 48 hours”, he said.

Belgore, in his inaugural speech, promised that they would act truly as unbiased umpire and won’t betray the confidence reposed in them by the Appeal Court President, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwal.

Belgore added that the tribunal shall comply strictly with the provisions of the 1999 constitution, Electoral Act 2010(as amended), Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rule and the Practice Directive as issued by the President of the Court of Appeal.

He said the panel won’t tolerate any act that could be inimical to smooth running of the tribunal regarding the hearing and dispensation of judgment within 180 days stipulated by the Appeal Court.

“It would be recalled that on the July 14, 2018, election was held into the office of the Governor of Ekiti State . Following the declaration and return of Fayemi of the APC as the winner, his co-contestant, Prof. Olusola of the PDP , is challenging the outcome and declaration before this tribunal,” he explained.