Ondo election tribunal dismisses five APC cases

AKINRUNTAN

Akinruntan

FIVE of the petitions filed against the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to challenge the outcome of the House of Assembly elections in Ondo State by the All Progressive Congress (APC) were last Friday dismissed by the Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Akure over litigations arising from the 2015 elections.

The dismissed petitions are those filed by Akingboye David, Ilaje 1 Constituency, Smart Omotadewa of Idanre, Akintunde Folajimi of Ondo West 2, Olamide Adesanmi of Ondo East and Olumuyiwa Ojo of Akoko North East.

The PDP candidates who were declared winners of the elections in the contentious constituencies are Abayomi Akinruntan of Ilaje 1, Akintehinwa Tuyi of Idanre, Ifedayo Akinsoyinu of Ondo West 2, Siji Akindiose of Ondo East and Fatai Olotu of Akoko Northeast state constituencies   The petitioners, among others, challenged the victory of the PDP candidates in the stated constituencies and prayed the tribunal to upturn same based on allegations of massive irregularities and violence in the exercise that took place on April 11.

They also request the tribunal to declare them, in their separate petitions, as winners in their various constituencies having scored “the highest number of lawful votes in the exercise”, but the tribunal, even before the matter reached the hearing stage, threw away the petitions.

The tribunal headed by Justice Orobojor Ogar dismissed the petitions on the ground of incompetence of the issuance of pre-hearing information sheet in Form TF 007 which was tantamount to putting the cart before the horse.

According to tribunal proceedings, the application for and issuance of Form TF 007 forecloses the defence of all the litigants in the matter and in this case, a major defendant, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has not fi8led its defence.

The tribunal held that the issuance of the pre-hearing information sheet was premature thereby rendering same incompetent stating that the court the petitioners should have towed the line of the Court of Appeal’s decision in the case of Gebi vs Dahiru.

In the stated case,the Court held that the petitioners should withdrawn the earlier pre-hearing notice issued and filed another one after filling the petitioners’ reply and further held that the case of Ezeudu v John relied on by the petitioners cannot stand the decision of the Court of Appeal decision on the erlier case.

On whether the irregularity can be cured by paragraph 53(1) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended), the tribunal relying on the recent case of Omisore v. Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola delivered by the Supreme Court in May 2015, held that the paragraph cannot cure the irregularity as the clear provision of paragraph 18(1) of the Schedule has moved from being a rule of court to a statutory provision which cannot be waived.

The tribunal, which also cited the case of Abubakarv Nasamu, accordingly dismissed the petitions in line with the provision of paragraph 18(4) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2010b for being grossly incompetent but it made no order as to cost.    One of the PDP lawmakers, Akinruntan said the judgment was good for democracy.

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