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Amaechi Vs Omehia : Tribunal Fixes Date For Ruling

It was a battle of wits as the tribunal handling the election petition between Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and Sir Celestine Omehia, resumed hearing on Monday, December 12, 2011.
Petition No EPT/GOV/PHIO2/201 1 was instituted by Sir Omehia against Gov Amaechi, Engr Tele Ikuru, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the Independent National Electoral Commission, NEC, in protest against the emergence of Gov Amaechi as the winner of the April 2011 governorship election.
The petition which was earlier dismissed by the election tribunal was, at the Appeal Court, ordered to be retried by another tribunal. J.C. Ezike, leading Chief S. Elekima, Dennis Dema, K.S. Elenwo, M. 1. Okonny and T.U. Umar, appeared for the petitioner, while I. A. Adedipe, (SAN) with D.A. Dare, appeared for Gov Amaechi and Tele Ikuru.
The Peoples Democratic Party had Igodalo Ahmadu Bello (SAN) with M.D Okpe, Emma Kalu and U. Ebong, while Dike Kalu Udenna appeared for NEC.
Gov Amaechi, his Deputy, Tele Ikuru, the PDP and INEC, through their counsel, applied to dismiss and strike out the petition of Sir Omehia.
Mr Adedipe (SAN) said their application was dated November 25, 2011 and filed the following day, and supported by a 14 paragraph affidavit and written submission.
He prayed the tribunal to dismiss the petition on the grounds that the time for judgment has expired.
“The crux of the matter is an interpretation of section 2 85(6). This petition is dead, not withstanding the order for retrial”, he said.
Adedipe said the language of the law was very clear that an election tribunal shall deliver its judgment within 180 days from the date of filing according to section 285 (6) and that no court can add or import anything into it.
“The petition was filed on 17th of May 2011, today is 12th December, your lordship is not entitled to hear it”.
The tribunal asked him to whom the provision was addressed? Was it a constitutional duty? Was it meant to deprive anyone of his rights? If not, where does the relief lie?
Mr Adedipe replied that looking at the provision of the constitution visa-a-vis the peculiar circumstances of the present case, there was room for worry. However, until the error is seen and corrected, there should be no sentiment or morality attached to it and so the time limit must be obeyed no matter who bears the brunt.
He said even if the delay was caused by the tribunal, the worst that could happen to it was stricture, but the tribunal’s decision would still stand since section 285(5) (6) (7) is a statute of limitation.
Mr Igodalo (SAN), counsel for the PDP who said his application was submitted on November 23, 2011, supported by a 13 paragraph affidavit, also asked the tribunal for an order to dismiss the petition of Omehia for want of jurisdiction due to expiration of time.
He agreed with I.A. Adedipe that time was essential in an election petition and since from the date of Omehia’s petition, 180 days has elapsed, the tribunal has no jurisdiction to hear the case.
“Your lordship cannot revive a petition that has elapsed. The Court of Appeal sent it back to be tried within the confines of section 285. We urge your lordship to strike out the petition”, Igodalo concluded.
Dike Udenna, counsel for NEC, adopted the submission of both Adedipe and Igodalo. J. C. Ezike, counsel for Omehia, however, said the tribunal was not bound by section 285 (5) (6) (7).
He said the issue in contention is a retrial and that section 287(2) of the constitution compelled all lower courts to obey orders of the superior court, so the appeal court decision that the case be tried, is binding on the tribunal.
“It is retrial that is the issue and the court of appeal ordered it and the tribunal cannot disobey the order”, he said.
The tribunal thereafter, adjourned the case to January 10, 2012, for ruling. ###

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