BY PETER DURU
MAKURDI- The reconstituted Benue State National/State Houses of Assembly Tribunal headed by Justice Muktar Abimbola has resumed sitting in Makurdi with a declaration that they have a fresh mandate of 180 days to retry the petition between Mr. Hassan Saleh of Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP and Mr. Daniel Onjeh of Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, for Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo Federal Constituency election as directed by the Court of Appeal.
Justice Abimbola said this while delivering his ruling, Tuesday, on an application brought by Saleh, who sought the status of the petition against his victory, contending that the 180 days stipulated in the Electoral Act 2010, as amended, for hearing any disputes arising from the 2011 general elections had elapsed.
But Justice Abimbola held that the panel was for the purpose of retrial with a fresh mandate, hence it would hear the matter on its merit.
He said the word “shall” used in Section 265(6) of the 1999 Constitution was subject to interpretation and that the retrial order given by the Appeal Court in Makurdi meant that the case had to start afresh.
He said the decision of the panel did not mean that the Constitution was being disregardeds, noting that the retrial was in the interest of justice.
He, therefore, adjourned the matter to December 12 for commencement of hearing.
Reacting to the judgment, Comrade Daniel Onjeh, a one-time President of the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS as well as President, West African Students’ Union Government, WASUG, praised the courage displayed by the tribunal through the judgment, noting that it was novel in Nigerian jurisprudence.
However, in his reaction, Counsel to Mr Saleh, Mathias Emeribe accused the tribunal of writing a new law, maintaining that section 285(6) of the Nigerian Constitution was explicit on election issues and did not require any interpretation even by the Supreme Court.