PDP Kicks against Disbandment of Osun Election Tribunal

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  • Respect judiciary, APC tells opposition party

Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja and Yinka Kolawole in Osogbo

Members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Osun State thursday protested at the premises of the state High Court following the alleged disbandment of the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal hearing matters arising from the recently concluded governorship poll in the state.

The main opposition party has demanded the immediate reconstitution of the tribunal, saying that further delay would jeopardise the course of justice in the matter.

But in a swift response, the state chapter of the All progressives Congress (APC) has expressed total disgust at what the party described as the shenanigans of the PDP over the dissolution of the tribunal.

Scores of PDP members while staging a peaceful protest in the court premises, carried placards with the inscriptions such as ‘Why the sudden disbandment of the panel?’ Constitute a new panel immediately now?’ No more Salamigate in Osun’ Save our democracy from rogues’”

They said the alleged disbandment would have a negative effect on the case of the petitioner.

A former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Osun State, Mr. Niyi Owolade, who is one of the counsel for the governorship candidate of the PDP in Osun State, Senator Ademola Adeleke, said the disbandment of the panel ought to have been done simultaneously with the constitution of a new one.

Adeleke’s counsel who raised the alarm while addressing journalists in front of the courtroom where the panel usually sat, said the dissolution of the three-man panel headed by Justice T. A. Igoche, would adversely affect the prosecution of the case.

The counsel said they were worried because they filed an exparte application for substituted service on the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Gboyega Oyetola, and the APC who he claimed had been evading service.

He, however, said that members and chairman of the tribunal were nowhere to be found when the application was supposed to be heard yesterday.

He said, “We were told by court officials that the panel has been disbanded. But what is more surprising is that a new panel has not been put in place. It should be done simultaneously.

“Our 180 days have started counting since October 16 and final judgment is expected to be given in this petition before April 16, 2019.”

The venue of the tribunal was locked and the court officials told journalists that there would be no sitting but no reason was given.

The main opposition party has demanded the immediate reconstitution of the tribunal, saying that further delay would jeopardise the course of justice in the matter.

The opposition party’s submission was predicated on reports that the APC had allegedly been mounting pressure on the judiciary to deny the PDP justice in the determination of the Osun Governorship election dispute at the tribunal.

The party therefore frowned at the disbanding of the panel by the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachwa, a development which it said if not quickly addressed will send a very bad signal on the integrity of the judiciary.

The PDP noted that the President of the Court of Appeal should note that her disbanding of the panel without setting up a new one, is a strong indication of deliberate attempt to prevent the PDP from serving the APC and its candidate, and to meet the constitutional 180 days time-frame for the determination of the case at the Tribunal.

In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, he said that the party was aware that the original panel was disbanded after the APC and its candidate had failed to manipulate and compromise the members to frustrate the case.

He stated: “The PDP therefore urges the President of the Court of Appeal not to bend to the proclivities of the APC and its candidate to bring the vouched reputation of the judiciary into a shameful disrepute, in their desperation to hold onto to a stolen mandate.

He added that while the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was served, the APC and its candidate evaded service, saying the PDP on Wednesday, October 17, 2018 applied for substituted service, which was slated for hearing for Thursday, October 18, 2018, only to be informed that the panel had been disbanded on Wednesday without any reason and without providing a new panel to hear our matter.

He added, “Election petition matters are sui generis, with specific timeframe allotted to various stages up to the final determination. The failure to set up a new panel to timeously hear our application for substituted service on APC and its candidate smacks of a shenanigan to deny our party full justice in the matter.”

The opposition party therefore invited Nigerians to note that in is lawful effort to reclaim its 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.

Meanwhile, the APC in the state has expressed total disgust at what the party described as the shenanigans of the PDP over the dissolution of the tribunal.

In a statement by the party’s Director of Publicity, Research and Strategy, Kunle Oyatomi, the party described PDP’s statement and the orchestrated demonstration as “irresponsible and desperate.”

According to the party, “nothing could be more absurd than the PDP’s accusation of the APC as the brain behind the dissolution of the Electoral Tribunal. We will want the people of Osun State to remember that this same phenomenon occurred in 2014 when the same PDP went to tribunal, attempting to annul the re-election of Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola at the time”.

Oyatomi said “By our records, which is public knowledge, the tribunal was dissolved three times. “Because we did not know what was responsible for the dissolution, the APC did not issue stupid statements nor was any irresponsible protests, organised against those dissolutions.”.

“This was because we were neither privy to, nor was it our responsibility to question the action of the judiciary. We had faith in the process and we allow it to run its course – this, at a time the PDP itself was in charge of government in Abuja”.

“’The PDP should be called to order because it is about time it gets responsible. What we are witnessing is an escalation of both distrust in the political process and a lack of faith in the judiciary which does no good to our democracy.”