The Justice Jovita Rinjin-led Local Government Petition Election Tribunal in Plateau on Thursday fixed Dec. 17 to deliver a ruling which may getermine whether it winds-up its assignment or continue. It will rule on that date on an application to dismiss all the 31 petitions before it.
Everyday.ng reports at its inauguration on November 23, the three man LG election petition tribunal was given 90 days within which to entertain grievances that may arise from the state’s Oct. 10 LG polls.
The results of the election were so controversial with the opposition PDP accusing the Lalong administration and the Plateau State Independent Electoral Commission (PLASIEC) of outrightly refusing to collate the election results and announcing them as expected by law.
The aggrieved chairmanship aspirants and councilors, who are virtually all from PDP filed a total of 31 petitions before the tribunal seeking for justice against what they described as “daylight robbery’’ of their mandates.
However, on its first day of pre-hearing, the Respondents Counsels, led by Chief Garba Pwul (SAN), had faulted the Petitioners’ Counsels for not filing their reply to pre-hearing questions within the 7-day constitutional time-frame.
Pwul had asked the tribunal to dismiss all the 31 petitions before it for the petitioners’ failure to obey the tribunal.
When the case came up for the pre-hearing, Mr Lawrence Anyia, who led the petitioners’ counsels, applied for adjournment of the pre-hearing on the ground that the tribunal registry had not been able to serve all the respondents with their (petitioners) answers to the pre-hearing questions.
Anyia, who spoke through Mr Samuel Oguntuyi, had said, “my Lord, with what we have discovered here today, we wish to apply for an adjournment to enable the registry serve all the respondents with our answers to the pre-hearing questions.’’
“We have indeed filed the answers but it appears not all the respondents have been served, which will not be convenient for us to continue with the business of the day.
“In the light of this, my Lord, we apply for a short adjournment to enable the registry do the needful,’’ Anyia pleaded.
In response, Pwul objected to the application and faulted the petitioners for not obeying the tribunal’s constitutional time frame of 7-days within which to file and serve all respondents before the pre-hearing date.
Pwul had claimed that the petitioners had flouted the order of the tribunal, which he claimed gave them (petitioners) 48 hours within which to file their answers to the pre-hearing questions.
He said that for disobeying the tribunal, the petitioners should be made to face the consequences as stipulated by law.
The Senior Advocate referred the tribunal to section 18 (12) of the 1st Schedule of the Plateau State Electoral Law, which he said was clear about any petitioner’s failure to file and serve respondents within 7-days.
“The petitions should be considered as “been abandoned’’ and should be `dismissed, he said.
`m”We are of the belief that the petitioners are out of time having failed to do the needful. In applying that section of the electoral act, all the 31 petitions should be dismissed and struck out, ’’ Pwul argued.
In reply, Anyia debunked Pwul’s claim that the tribunal made an order to them to file within 48 hours, and asserted that the answers had been filed appropriately, adding that “even PLASIEC has already been served.’’
“My Lord, there was no day that this tribunal gave us 48 hours within which to file our answers to the pre-hearing questions because on the day we were to have the 1st pre-hearing, the tribunal did not sit. How then could that order be given to us?
“On section 18(12) of the electoral act raised by SAN, it is predicated only on five fundamental issues especially if a party failed to attend pre-hearing orders or be prepared for it.
“I therefore hold that this objection and application to dismiss all our petitions do not hold water, and therefore, I urge your lordship to disregard this application and adjourn the case to enable the registry serve all the respondents with our answers, ‘’ Anyia pleaded.
Justice Rinjin, however, fixed Dec. 17 to rule on the matter, a situation, which placed the tribunal on a scale to decide whether to wind-up its assignment on that day or continue from there.