By Simon Ebegbulem, Benin City
THE Appeal Court sitting in Benin City, Edo state has dismissed the Appeal filed by the governorship candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, against the ruling of the Edo State Governorship Election petition Tribunal which ordered the stoppage of the counting of ballot papers used for the September 28, 2016 governorship election in Edo state.
The Appeal Court declined ruling on the cross Appeal filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate, Governor Godwin Obaseki, where the APC asked the appellate court to determine what to do with the report of the ballot papers already counted by the tribunal, saying that any ruling on the matter will be pre-empting the decision of the lower tribunal on the petition before it.
It will be recalled that the lower tribunal had ordered the stoppage of the counting of the ballot papers used for the election as requested by Ize-Iyamu, following the expiration of the 14 days allotted to each of the parties to prove their cases.
Not satisfied with the ruling, Ize-Iyamu ran to the Appeal Court to contest the decision on the ground that he was yet to count most of the Local Government Areas that the tribunal agreed should be recounted under 14 days.
But Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi, who ruled on the matter, declared that “election matters have their rules and it must be adhered to. In this case 14 days were given to each parties to prove their cases and that 14 days is sacrosanct according to the Electoral Act and cannot be extended. Election petition tribunals are described as a class of their own, time is of essence, therefore any action done outside that time prescribed will be a nullity.
“The tribunal was right when it refused to allow the continuation of the recounting of ballot papers after the expiration of 14 days given to the petitioner. The Appeal is unmeritorious and thereby dismissed”.
On the Appeal filed by the APC which challenged the decision of the tribunal to even order the recount at all arguing that Ize-Iyamu ought to have come by way of a motion of Notice to seek for the recount, the appellate Court in a judgment delivered by Justice M.A.Abume, disagreed with the APC, saying that since the PDP had earlier asked the court for a recount, the party was perfectly entitled to move the tribunal orally to order the recount. In that regard the court dismissed the Appeal filed by the APC.