BY PETER DURU
MAKURDI- Benue State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal has slated Friday, August 19, 2011 for ruling on the preliminary objection raised by Governor Gabriel Suswam against the petition filed by Prof. Steve Ugbah, governorship candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, for lack of merit.
Moving the application, counsel to Suswam, Damian Dodo, SAN, said the allegation of falsification of certificate as canvassed by the petitioner had already been dealt with by the same tribunal in the matter between Prof. Daniel Saror of All Nigeria People’s Party, ANPP, and his client and urged the tribunal to stand by its ruling delivered on August 11, 2011 as according to him, “this is not the place to ventilate such pleadings.”
Dodo argued that the contention that INEC did not capture the particulars of his client was a pre-election matter that should not concern the tribunal, observing that it was an after thought by Prof. Ugbah to run away from the import of the ruling on Saror/Suswam case on same matter.
He further contended that the respondent lacked the power to compel INEC to publish particulars of a candidate even as he pleaded with the tribunal to grant the application in the interest of justice.
In his submission, Mr. Solo Akuma, SAN, counsel to PDP described Prof. Ugbah’s allegation as criminal in nature ‘’in an election petition,’’ saying that those the allegations were made against were not parties in the case.
However, Femi Falana counsel to Prof. Steve Ugbah discountenanced their arguments, alleging that the presentation of certificate for an election by the candidate was critical.
He also insisted that the issue of non presentation of certificate to INEC must be heard regretting that all efforts made by them to get INEC release materials failed.
Falana maintained that they were not questioning Suswam’s certificate which was deemed as criminal domicile for a state or Federal High Court, adding that they were only challenging the declaration of the Governor on grounds of non presentation of certificate which was one of the basis for any candidate to contest an election.
“We are not quarreling with the election but challenging whether the Governor who was declared winner by INEC was qualified to contest the election.
‘’Also if the tribunal comes at the conclusion that a criminal offence is involved in an election petition, then it shall recommend to INEC to prosecute,” Falana said.
After hearing the submissions of the counsel, the tribunal Chairman, Justice Munir Ladan adjourned the matter till Friday for a consolidated ruling on the matter.