By George Okoh in Makurdi
The National Assembly Election Tribunal sitting in Makurdi has struck out the motion filed by Chief Steven Lawani of the All Progressives Congress (APC) seeking to amend his petition challenging the election of Abba Moro of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Ruling on the motion, which attracted heated arguments from the lead counsel to Moro, Mr E C Ikonne, and the lead counsel to Lawani, Mr S O Okpale, a member of the tribunal, Justice C M Ken-Eze, said the court could not allow the motion to succeed because new matters were introduced in the amendment sought by the petitioner.
Ken-Eze also said after a careful look into the arguments of the counsel to Lawani and Moro, that the tribunal found it difficult to allow the motion because the 21 days allowed for the filing of the petition had elapsed.
According to her, the amendment would have been allowed if it was about typographical errors or other minor issues in the petition.
She pointed out that the amendment was like the introduction of a new petition and maintained that of the four issues pleaded in the amendment, two were entirely new.
Justice Ken-Eze explained further that the Electoral Act as amended does not have provision for such amendments and stressed that the tribunal had to agree with the counsel who argued that the motion should not be allowed to sail through because it was substantially defective.
Earlier, Okpale had referred to some higher court judgments, which said the electoral act was not being fair to a petitioner who sought for amendment, but ruled that tribunals could allow amendments irrespective of the harsh provision.
The same Okpale however told the tribunal that even as that harsh provision of the Electoral Act was later removed, the Justice A A Adeleye tribunal could allow the motion to succeed.
In his argument against the amendment, lead counsel to Moro, Ikonne (SAN), told the tribunal that the same Electoral Act as amended disallows such amendment especially that new matters had been introduced into the petition through it.
Ikonne said his client would not be given justice if the amendment which sought to introduce fresh matters into the petition was granted by the court and urged that the motion should be dismissed in its entirety.
Counsel to the PDP, INEC and APC all toed the line of the arguments of their lead counsel who referred to relevant cases to back their arguments.
After the ruling, the chairman of the tribunal, Justice A. A. Adeleye, adjourned to May 24 for further pre-hearing on the matter concerning Lawani and Moro who contested election in the Benue South Senatorial District.