The three-man Delta State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal panel, chaired by Justice Nasiru Gunmi, threw out another set of five motions brought by All Progressive Congress (APC) and its governorship candidate, Olorungun O’tega Emerhor, in its resumed sitting on Monday, August 3, 2015.
Emerhor and the APC had sought the leave of the tribunal for enlargement of time to apply for further and better affidavits and include additional information to their original petition.
The motion also sought the tribunal’s permission to compel PDP and INEC by way of response, to furnish the tribunal with more facts about the petition.
Dr. Alex Iziyon (SAN), appearing as lead counsel to Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, the Delta State governor, vehemently opposed the application after the court had adopted his written address, and submitted that since section 45(1) of the electoral act is not a magic umbrella, the electoral act forbids the tribunal the powers to grant the application, arguing further that the rules advanced by the petitioner were not tenable.
Counsels to PDP and INEC, A.T Kehinde, SAN and Damian D. Dodo, SAN respectively, equally opposed the application, relying on section 285(1) of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria and section 134 of the Electoral Act, as basis for their arguments.
They informed the tribunal that the combined effect of the two sections curtailed the powers of the tribunal to grant the extension of time.
Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Nasiru Gunmi, in his ruling on the motion said the application lacked merit because it violated section 17(1)(2) of the Electoral Act, as Emerhor and APC failed to adhere to the stipulated time limit of ten days within which to file their motion.
Justice Gunmi further averred that, “If a party in an election petition, wishes to have further particulars or other directions about the tribunal, such party may do so at any time but not more than ten days after the filing of the reply from the respondents”, adding that “if the party does not apply as provided for in the electoral act, it is taken that they do not require any further particulars or direction and the prayers shall be granted.”
According to Justice Gumi, “The applicants application is in breach of section 17(1) of the first schedule of the electoral act, which requires the applicant to file their application within ten days, and as the time allowed has expired, the question now is whether this tribunal can extend time. In a situation like this, the tribunal is bound to exercise it powers as contained in section 17 (1) of the electoral act. Equally section 17(2) prohibits this tribunal from extending time and it restricts the tribunal from exercising such power for time extension”.
He ruled that, “If the tribunal lacks powers to grant a particular relief, it is duty bound to refuse such application and in the end we agree with the submission of the respondents counsels (PDP, INEC), and refuse this application and it accordingly dismissed”.
Counsel to Olorogun Emerhor, Chief Thompson Okpoko, had earlier argued that section 17(1) (2), of the electoral act, permits what his client was asking for. He argued that a party to an election petition wishing to have better and further particulars can apply to the tribunal, adding that it is by reason of that provision that has prompted them to file the motion for time enlargement.
The application, according to Okpoko, was brought because they were unable to meet the stipulated time as contained in the electoral act.
In a similar motion brought by APC and Olorogun Otega Emerhor through its counsel, Mr. Okpoko, the petitioners also sought the leave of the tribunal to call for seven additional witnesses on oath in their petition.
The respondents counsels, lead by Dr. Alex Iziyon equally opposed the application, saying the petitioners failed to carry out the mandatory front loading in their previous petitions and motions and urged the court to also dismiss the application.
Justice Gunmi reserved August 5, 2015 for ruling on the matter as to whether to allow the APC and Olorogun O’tega Emerhor to call for seven additional witnesses in the petition and the court adjourned to Auguast 5, 2015 as the next hearing date for the matter.