By Tony Ehighiale, Benin
The Edo State Election Petition Tribunal has fixed January 9, 2017, for the hearing of the petition filled by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its governor candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu against the outcome of the September 28 governorship election.
Pastor Ize-Iyamu is asking the tribunal to declare him winner of the election.
Speaking at the resumed sitting of the tribunal yesterday, Chairman of the three-man panel, Justice Ahmed Badamasi also announced December 12, 2016 for pre-hearing session of the petition.
This decision was reached after an agreement was reached by all Counsels to the parties in the suit.
Part of the agreement was to allow all objections to be consolidated with the substantive petition to save time.
Yesterday’s sitting was fixed for hearing of applications but Counsel to Pastor Ize-Iyamu, Kehinde Pinheiro, told the tribunal that they have agreed that all applications before the tribunal would be taken during the final address.
Kehinde said their agreement was subject to the discretion of the tribunal for the applications to be heard along side the substantive suit.
He said they also reached a consensus that pre-hearing of the election petition be fixed for next Monday while hearing of the petition should commence in January.
Lead Counsel for Godwin Obaseki and the All Progressives Congress (APC), Wole Olanipekun and Lateef Fagbemi, respectively, aligned themselves with the position of Pinheiro’s submission.
But Counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Onyinye Anumonye, said he was not part of the agreement but did not oppose the agreed modality for the hearing of the petition.
However, the petitioners’ Counsel informed the tribunal that the respondents were deliberately frustrating inspection of ballot papers used for the election”.
Pinheiro noted that contrary to the tribunal order that five persons should represent each of the parties?, the respondents insisted that all their five representatives must inspect each ballot paper.
He said the stand of the respondents made the machine scanned 1,787 ballot papers in eight hours instead of 9,000 ballot papers.
He alleged that the respondents? said they would not be present for the scanning exercise any day the tribunal is sitting.
Pinheiro urged the tribunal to order the respondents to comply with its earlier order to stop any attempt to frustrate the scanning of ballot paper
Respondents’ Counsels, Olanipekun, Fagbemi and Anumonye, urged the tribunal to direct the petitioners’ Counsel to do the proper thing by coming with an application if he felt the tribunal’s earlier order was being flouted.
Consequently, the tribunal ordered Pinheiro to lay his complaints through an application.
In an interview, Olanipekun said, “The petitioners and the respondents have agreed to allow all objections to be consolidated with the substantive petition. All of them will be taken together in order to save time. Trial will now commence on December 12.
“The tribunal said if anybody has any complain, let it be put into writing.”