The All Progressive Congress (APC) and its gubernatorial candidate has been accused of engaging in practices which can best be interpreted as actions designed to delay and prolong the trial in the on-going Delta State Election Petition Tribunal.
This observation was made by lead Counsel to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP A.T Kehinde, SAN and supported by both lead Counsels to the independent National Electoral Commission, INEC Onyinye Anumonye and Governor Okowa, Chief Pat Mozea, respectively, at the resumed hearing of the pre-hearing proceedings at the Delta State Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Asaba, the Delta State capital.
Kehinde told the tribunal that counsel to APC and O’rtega, Mr. Thomson Okpoko (SAN) was exploiting legal loopholes to frustrate the ongoing trail with the plethora of applications brought before the tribunal, which according to the respondents was not in the interest of ensuring an accelerated trail, as has been previously canvassed by then petitioners.
Kehinde, who noted that the impression, prior to the resumed hearing was that it was the respondents who were deliberately delaying the proceedings, said: “My position with greatest respect to the learned Tribunal Judges is that our application to respond to the application filed by the petitioners for further and better particulars, which has already been identified as one of the applications to be included in the substantive hearing, had already been filed and is before the Tribunal Judges and so must also be considered as an added application and should be heard in the substantive trial.
Speaking further, Kehinde said that, “Justice delayed is justice denied and we must be giving a level playing ground to ventilate our clients’ position on the motion by the petitioners asking for better and further particulars, since that motion has been caught by the previous ruling of this tribunal”.
Kehinde’s succinct observation had come on the heels of the robust argument by lead Counsel representing Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, Chief Ken Mozea, SAN, who had posited that the application to grant the petitioners an enlargement of time to apply for further and better particulars had only been served on the morning of the resumed hearing and thus required that the respondents be given time, in line with the fulfillment of their fundamental rights, to respond to such applications and indeed all the applications already filed by the petitioners, which the Tribunal has adopted as the main applications to be determined upon in the substantive trial.
Reacting to Kehinde’s submission, Mr. Okpoko argued that “ I don’t think it’s right to suggest that there is an insinuation, or there is a suggestion, or an impression, or a perception created that somebody is delaying hearing of this election petition , we have been coming and we have been getting with it , so we have agreed that the petition should be taken to Monday , Monday hear we came, so that is the position my lord”.
Okpoko then reluctantly accepted the arguments of the respondents for an enlargement of time to accommodate their responses to the applications already filed, after lead Counsel to Okowa, Chief Mozea, SAN, had made it clear to the tribunal that he would not be denied his fundamental rights to fully utilize the time specified for him to file his response to the application by the defendants, and the tribunal unanimously agreed to adjourn till Monday, August 3, 2015, for resumed hearing on the responses to pending applications before the Tribunal.
Lead Counsels to the respondents had further wondered why the petitioners would embark on the time wasting manouveres of filing applications abruptly and seemingly with the intention of stampeding the respondents to hurriedly respond to, which, for the unprepared, would elicit an oral response, within the shortest possible notice.
They however averred further that professionalsm required respondents to operate in a properly articulated format and within the time frame stipulated by the Tribunal for such responses, all of which may have seemingly been interpreted erroneously as a waste of time by the respondents, when rather it is the petitioners, who by their late and abrupt applications are delaying the process.
Prior to this resolution, Tribunal Chairman Justice Nasir Gumi had earlier adopted all the applications by the respondents and petitioners seeking, amongst other prayers, the leave of the tribunal for an enlargement of time within which to produce further and better particulars, as well as the motion seeking to strike out certain paragraphs of the respondent reply to the petition, an application to call additional witness and applications already filed by the respondents, to seek the leave of the Tribunal to respond to all the applications filed by petitioners before the Tribunal.
Justice Gumi who, in his initial ruling, had used the opportunity to identify and harmonize all pending applications and motions from the petitioners and respondents, equally noted that some of the motions and applications that were caught by the tribunal’s previous rulings and averred that they will be taken at the next pre-hearing session.
Giving his ruling on the relevant applications to be taken with the substantive petition, Justice Gumi said that the need for the extension of time was expedient as that will enable the court establish modalities for the direction of the proceedings and in that regard, had fixed Friday July 27, as date of the resumed sitting, but had been compelled to reconsider that date, after a strong argument by Chief Pat Mozea, SAN, informing the Tribunal that he intended to exercise his fundamental rights to fully utilize his allotted time for response to the applications filed by the respondents, on the same day of the resumed sitting.
Justice Gumi then adjourned further hearing on the matter to August 03, 2015 for continuation of the pre-trial hearing.