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Tribunal Adjourns Sylva’s Petition Against Diri Indefinitely Over Bias Claim

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The All Progressives Congress, along with its candidate in the Bayelsa State governorship poll, Timipre Sylva, has accused the election petition tribunal in Abuja of bias.

The APC and Sylva demanded the outright disbandment of the tribunal headed by Justice Adekunle Adeleye and the reconstitution of another panel.

The APC and its candidate, Sylva, are challenging the re-election of Governor Duoye Diri, and his deputy, Lawrence Ewhrujakpo, in the November 11, 2023 governorship election.

The Independent National Electoral Commission had declared Diri the winner of the election after polling 175, 196 votes to defeat his closest rival, Sylva of the APC who scored 110,108 votes.

Dissatisfied, Sylva and the APC approached the tribunal to challenge the declaration of Diri as the winner of the poll.

Sylva and his party had closed their case at the tribunal at the last proceedings after calling their witnesses, including a former Commissioner of Police in the state, Akeem Alausa.

At the proceedings on Monday,  the tribunal Chairman, Justice  Adeleye, announced that a petition questioning the members’ neutrality and integrity and seeking indefinite adjournment in the hearing of the case had been filed.

In the petition dated March 4, 2024, the petitioners accused the tribunal of denying them their constitutional right to a fair hearing as required by law.

They contended that the seven days given to them by the tribunal was not enough to field their 234 witnesses and it was tantamount to denying them a fair hearing.

They said they planned calling 25 witnesses per day but the tribunal limited them to eight witnesses daily.

They alleged that the situation forced them to close their case prematurely without calling all their witnesses.

“In the face of this impossible situation, the petitioners had no choice but to close their case on Tuesday 27th February 2024 after calling only 49 witnesses out of the 234 witnesses,” they said.

The petitioners also claimed that the tribunal distorted the oral testimony of their witnesses in the record of proceedings and had also made findings and decisions in respect of the authenticity and weight of polling unit election results they tendered.

“Upon the perusal of the record of proceedings, we were perplexed to find that the tribunal had already made their findings and decisions with respect to the authenticity and weight of the documents (polling unit results) tendered by the petitioners even before the conclusion of the case. Examples are to be found on several pages of the record of proceedings, such as page 93 where the tribunal wrote as follows: Tribunal members – Observation in open court shows that the same pattern of writing was employed, “ the petition added.

The petitioners said it had become obvious that they could not get justice from the tribunal.

They said,  “It is obvious from the forgoing that the petitioners cannot get justice from the tribunal as presently constituted, since it is obvious that the tribunal chairman has descended into the arena of the legal conflict between the parties.

“In the light of the abnormalities mentioned above, we respectfully request Your Lordship to disband the membership of the Tribunal and reconstitute same urgently.

“As earlier indicated above, we have up till May 28, 2024, before the lifespan of the tribunal will expire. So there is still enough time for a new tribunal to start de novo and conclude the trial within the constitutional lifespan of 180 days.”

Also,  in a separate letter they brought to the tribunal through their counsel, R. O. Balogun, the APC and Sylva demanded that the tribunal should adjourn proceedings in the matter indefinitely pending the time the Court of Appeal President will come out with a decision on the petition.

In a short ruling, Justice Adeleye adjourned the matter sine die (indefinitely).

He noted that they would wait for the decision of the Court of Appeal President on the allegations against the tribunal.

 


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