Absence of two witnesses on Thursday stalled hearing of a election petition filed by the Action Democratic Party (ADP) against the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Ikeja.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the ADP alongside its Candidate, Mr Augustine Clement, filed the petition against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), PDP Candidate for House of Representatives election in Surulere ll Federal Constituency – Mr Olatunji Shoyinka – and PDP.
The petitioners are seeking a declaration that Clement was validly nominated by ADP during its primary election to contest for the House of Representatives election in the constituency, and that he was unlawfully excluded by INEC from the list of candidates for the election.
The ADP and Clement are also praying the tribunal to declare null, the House of Representatives election held in the constituency on Feb. 23 in which Shoyinka was declared the winner.
Thursday’s proceedings was the first trial to hold at the tribunal, following more than three weeks of pre-trial hearings.
Dr Ayodele Awoleye, PDP Leader in Lagos State, was in court for the proceedings.
Mr T. Ibeyi, counsel to the petitioners, informed the court that two witnesses – Clement and the Lagos State chairman of ADP, were absent.
“Unfortunately, the two witnesses for the petitioners are unavailable to give evidence today.
“The first witness, who is the second petitioner (Clement) is unavailable on health grounds, while the second witness (ADP chairman) is in the FCT for an event.
“We are asking for an adjournment for the second petitioner to give evidence tomorrow,” Ibeyi said.
Reacting, counsel to the respondents opposed the request, and asked that the tribunal should award costs against the petitioners.
Mr Wahab Ismail, counsel to the first respondent (INEC), said, “He (Ibeyi) has decided to use the first day of the two days set aside for trial like this.
“He should have informed us about this development because he was aware of it ahead of time.
“My lord, we would be asking for costs of N100,000 against the petitioner for not utilising the day he was given in the manner it was meant for.
“This is an election petition, not an ordinary matter; I have been running hotel bills since Monday.”
Mr A. M. Kotoye, counsel to the second respondent (Shoyinka) told the court that the absence of the witnesses was a ploy by the petitioners to truncate proceedings.
“For the second defendant, we would also be asking for a cost of N150,000 against the petitioners.
“There was an Economic and Financial Crimes Commission matter that I was supposed to take before Justice Atinuke Ipaye, but I had to abandon it because of this proceeding.
“The petitioners are not particularly keen on prosecuting this matter. In fact, they are trying to truncate it,” he said.
Aligning himself with the submission of Ismail and Kotoye, Mr B. S. Adebayo, counsel to the third respondent (PDP), requested that the tribunal should award N100,000 cost against the petitioners.
The Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Kunaza Hamidu, however, ruled that the respondents were not entitled to any cost, saying that the days set aside for hearing of the petition had not elapsed.
The chairman adjourned hearing of the petition until May 14.