Edo poll: Legal fireworks begin as 110 lawyers storm  petition tribunal

By Tony Ehighiale, Benin City

No fewer than 110 lawyers have stormed the Edo State Election Petitions Tribunal as legal fireworks began in the petition filed by Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and the Peoples Democratic Party against the outcome of the September 28 governorship election.

Besides the over 100 lawyers present at the court, hundreds of supporters of both the APC and the PDP were at the court premises to show solidarity.

There was commotion after the court sitting as suspected thugs loyal to both the PDP and the APC chanted anti-party songs.

Three of the party sympathizers were injured as one of them was axed on the head and he was rushed to a nearby chemist shop for treatment.

Former governorship candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, Mr. Frank Ukonga, said he lost his phones, money and vital documents after he was attacked by suspected thugs.

Ukonga appealed to security agencies to ensure that thugs were not allowed to the court premises in future sittings of the tribunal.

However, the tribunal yesterday failed to begin pre-hearing session of the petition filed by the PDP and Pastor Ize-Iyamu.

Pastor Ize-Iyamu, who trailed behind Obaseki in the election with 253,173 votes, is asking the tribunal to declare him winner of the election.

Lead Counsel to Ize-Iyamu and the PDP, Adebayo Adeladun, had earlier informed the tribunal that he was prepared for the pre-hearing session but lead Counsels to the APC and Obaseki, Adeniyi Akintola and Ken Mozia said they were not informed about the pre-hearing session.

Both Mozia and Akintola said they have applications that must be heard before the pre-hearing session.

Akintola said there was need for the tribunal to hear all applications before the pre-hearing session commenced while Mozia said his application is to summarily terminate the petition.

In his applications, Mozia requested for orders of the tribunal to dismiss the entire petition as well as strike out some paragraphs in the main petition.

Adeladun in his application is asking for an striking out certain paragraphs in Obaseki’s response to the petition as well as a declaration that Obaseki’s application was not mature for hearing.

Counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Mr. Onyebuchi Ikpeazu, told the tribunal that INEC was not aware that pre-hearing session was scheduled for yesterday sitting.

He said they were not in the court for pre-hearing because the commission did not receive any information to that effect.

Chairman of the three-man panel, Justice Ahmed Badamasi, held that yesterday’s sitting was not fixed for pre-hearing session.

Justice Badamasi fixed December 7, 2016 to hear all pending applications and gave the counsels time limit within which to file and respond.

Mozia also informed the tribunal that the PDP and its candidate were carrying out scanning of ballot papers without the representatives of APC and Obaseki.

He said continuous scanning of the ballot papers without respondents representatives was a breach of the tribunal earlier order that all parties must be present.

Chief Akintola supported Mozia saying they were not notified.

But Adeladun told the tribunal that the respondents want to frustrate his clients effort at scanning the ballot papers.

The tribunal chairman said that its earlier orders were in order adding that no party should be excluded.

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