By Adeola Oladele, Ibadan
The lack of resumption of substantive chairman of the Election Petitions Tribunal as spelt out in paragraph 24 of the 1st schedule of Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), on Monday compelled Oyo State Governorship election petition tribunal to adjourn sitting till Friday on the pre- hearing of the petition filed by former governor Rashidi Ladoja, challenging the victory of Governor Abiola Ajimobi in the last April election in the state.
The acting chairman of the tribunal, Hon. Justice Mahamud Karaye, made the adjournment when the tribunal couldn’t hear the petition filled by the former Governor Ladoja, because the new chairman for the tribunal is yet to resume duty.
When the tribunal convened on Monday with its Acting chairman, Justice Mahmud I Karaye, lead counsel for Senator Ladoja, Pastor Richard Ogunwole, SAN, had raised the issue of the constitutional provision and his dilemma over the absence of a chairman for the tribunal.
The provision reads: ”If the chairman of tribunal or presiding judge of the court has not arrived at the appointed time for the hearing or at time of which the hearing has been postponed, the hearing shall by reason of that fact stand adjourned to the following day and so from day to day”
WESTERN POST reports that the senior counsel to Ladoja told the tribunal that in as much as he would love to go ahead with the pre-hearing, he would not want to engage in an exercise which at the end of the day, becomes a nullity due to the constitutional provision.
He said: “Today, they said the chairman has not resumed, the question is can they (tribunal members) act on acting capacity. When we look at the law, it is not on our side that they should act and that is why we don’t want to build on a faulty foundation because anything done on a faulty foundation will collapse. We don’t want to do anything that will be declared a nullity at the end of the day. We are pleading seriously that something urgent should be done.”
Justice Karaye had earlier told the sitting that the chairman of the election tribunal was yet to resume, adding that he had the authority of President of the Court of Appeal to go ahead with the tribunal and act as Chairman, stressing “he told me that verbally.”
Chief Ogunwole, however, pleaded that such an instruction must be in a written form, maintaining, “We are talking of jurisdictional importance. No verbal instruction can change a gazette instruction. What we are doing now is laying foundation. If the foundation crumbles, the whole exercise crumbles.”
Governor Ajimobi’s lead counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun, and that of APC, Chief Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, as well as that of INEC and Oyo REC, Barrister Adeboye Shobanjo, were, however, not against a suggestion by the tribunal acting chairman that the session be adjourned till Friday.
Chief Akeredolu, in addition, counseled Chief Ogunwole to write a formal letter to the President of Court of Appeal on the development and on the need to speedily look into the issue of the appointment of Chairman for the election tribunal, which Chief Ogunwole did not object to.
Justice Karaye consequently adjouned the pre-hearing session to Friday.