The Osun State Election Petition Tribunal has fixed Monday, 3rd November, 2014, for ruling on the request by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its governorship candidate, Senator Iyiola Omisore that the tribunal should not determine the competence of their petition at the pre-hearing stage.
This is just as the counsel of the duo, Dr Alex Izinyon (SAN) withdrew an application seeking extension of time for the ongoing inspection of the election materials and had it struck out on the basis that the issue would be sorted out administratively.
These were the major issues on the front burner at the commencement of the pre-trial hearing of the petition filed by Omisore and his party against the re-election of Governor Rauf Aregbesola and the All Progressive Congress (APC) before the newly constituted Justice Elizabeth Ikpejime-led tribunal on Thursday, 30th October, 2014.
The petitioners’ counsel had asked the tribunal to defer the premilinary objection which is challenging the competence of the petition till hearing stage, arguing that the application of the respondents should be heard along with the petition.
This, Governor Rauf Aregbesola, the first respondent’s counsel, Chief Akin Olujinmi (SAN) described as against Paragraph 53(5) of the First Schedule of the Electoral Act, saying the application filed on behalf of his clients are based on the competence of the petition.
“It is a mandatory provision of the Electoral Act that issues bothering on competence should be heard after pleadings. It is a procedure we need to follow.
“Because the objection we raised bothers on the competence of the matter, it is not a thing that can be heard along with the petition. It must be heard first,” the respondent’s argued.
The counsel cited the case of Okonkwo Vs INEC, 2004, 1NWLR, Part 854, Page 242 at page 277, where, according to him, the Court of Appeal ruled that it is for the court to determine the competence of the matter.
Also, APC (the second respondent) counsel, Chief Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) argued that the procedure is to hear the preliminary objections before going into the merit of the matter.
He also cited the cases of Maitisidau Vs Shidari, reported in 2008, 16NWLR, part 1114, page 553 at page 572, paragraph C-D, as well as Kazeem Vs Kola, 2012, 1NWLR, part 1282, page 543 at page 557 among others.
These cases, he argued, insisted that preliminary objection must be heard to determine the competence of the suit and jurisdiction of the court to hear it.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the third respondent’s counsel, Mr Ayotunde Ogunleye aligned with the submission of the first and second respondents, arguing that jurisdiction is a foundational issue that must be determined before going into the merit of the case.
Subsequently, the matter was adjourned till Monday, 3rd November, 2014 for ruling.
Meanwhile, the tribunal also fixed the same date to hear the applications of the first and second respondent in another petition filed by Accord Party governorship candidate, Mr Niyi Owolade against the same August 9 election.
Earlier, the tribunal chairman has cautioned against spreading falsehood over the activities of the tribunal, condeming the rumour that was spread last week that the tribunal had given order for the recounting of the votes.
Calling for cooperation of the parties in the matter, Justice Ikpejime also appealed to political parties to allow the tribunal do its job without any distraction.