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Appeal Court President To Disband Ogun Tribunal On APC Request?

By Olasunkanmi Akinlotan

Strong indications have emerged that the President of the Nigerian Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa, seems to have disbanded the Ogun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal headed by Justice Chinwe Onyeabo.

A source in the judiciary reliably hinted PLATFORM TIMES that an internal memo had been sent to Justice Onyeabo and two other members of the Tribunal who includes; Justice D. A. Onyigbenu and Justice (Khadi) M.L. Omar, to communicating an immediate order for them to leave the State for somewhere else which yet unknown to PLATFORM TIMES as at the time of filing this report.

It was further gathered that one Justice Josephine Coker from Lagos Division would now head the newly constituted three-man panel which included Justice Kabir Dabo who is a member of the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal in Ogun State, and one Justice Jubril, from Kano Division.

This development might not be unconnected with a Motion on Notice dated April 15 and filled by the All Progressives Congress, calling on members of the tribunal to recuse themselves from further sitting as members of the tribunal.
The APC had accused the panel of violating the right to fair hearing in the two factional petitions filled by Labour Party against the emergence of Dapo Abiodun of the APC as the Governor-Elect.

The Labour Party had filled two factional petitions; one filled by a factional Secretary of the Party, Comrade Ogini Olaposi and tagged EPT/OG/GOV/02/2019 and the other, by the Chairman of the Party in the State, Abayomi Arabambi tagged EPT/OG/GOV/03/2019.

The tribunal, at the outset, was faced with the difficulty on which of the two petitions to entertain since a party can’t file two petitions. At its hearing on April 4, the Tribunal listened to arguments of two Counsels, CK Ayanwale and Hassan Balogun, to ascertain which of the petitions should be accepted and sustained by the Tribunal.

Meanwhile, during their arguments, the governorship candidate Mrs Modupe Sanyaolu who both petitions reckoned as the governorship candidate of the party attacked the counsel to Ogini in court saying she had never met him before.

The counsel to the Chairman of the party, Barr. Hassan Balogun had also raised the issue of statutory security costs of N400,000 which was not paid until another petition was filled by Arabambi.

In their ruling read by Oyigbenu on April 9, the tribunal held that the first petition did not fully comply with the conditions precedent until 2nd of April when there was a valid pending petition filed in respect of the same party.
The ruling , “The tribunal has found and held that Petition No EPT/OG/GOV/02/2019 having not fully complied with all the conditions precedent until the 2nd of April, 2019 when there was a valid pending Petition already filed in respect of the same parties, same subject matter and same reliefs, constitutes an abuse of process and is hereby dismissed.”

But the APC which is the 2nd Respondent in the Petition has sought the Tribunal to sit as an appeal on its proceedings of 4th and 9th of April, by setting aside all the decision reached at the two sittings including the dismissal of one of the petitions.

According to the document obtained by PLATFORM TIMES, the ruling APC made its requests on the ground of violation of the Applicant’s right to a fair hearing, lack of jurisdiction and Interest of Justice.

A source who was close to the tribunal who spoke on condition of anonymity expressed shock on why the decision of court of appeal President who was the wife to the Bauchi North Senatorial District Senator-Elect of APC, Adamu Mohammed Bukachuwa, would rely on a motion that is not ripped for hearing by APC to disband the team.

When asked if truly the panel has been disbanded, the Secretary of the Tribunal, Nyior Henry Sekulla declined response as he said he has no authority to respond to issues of whether the panel has been disbanded or not disbanded.
But, Sekulla affirmed that ‘there was reshufflement in one way or the other across the federation’ adding that ‘Ogun State is likely to be affected or has been affected, but the situation will get clearer after we resume from the Easter break’.

When contacted on the development, the Chairman of Labour Party accused the National Leadership of APC of clandestine moves, threatening that his party will not allow another panel to seat in Ogun State.

He also clearly accused the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, National leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, former Governor of Ogun state, Olusegun Osoba and Dapo Abiodun of being behind the disbandment of the tribunal panel in order to frustrate his petition.

Arabambi further alleged that the President of the Court of Appeal had been threatened by reversing her husband’s election as a Senator-Elect if she fails to give-in into the pressure by the APC. He accused Governor-Elect of Ogun State of being the one that dictated the names of the new panel to be posted to Ogun State.

He further threatened that his party will not do any business with the new panel until the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the National Judicial Commission, NJC is petitioned.

Meanwhile, rumours have it that Justice Coker might be considering the option of rejecting the new appointment to avoid anything that could tamper with her image and carrier.

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