By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Abuja
The Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, yesterday, ordered the constitution of a new Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in Borno state to hear the petition seeking to sack the governor of Borno state, Kashim Shettima of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, from office.
The petition was filed by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its candidate in the April 26 governorship election in the state, Alhaji Mohammed Goni.The appellate court in a judgment it delivered yesterday ordered de-novo trial of the matter on its merit.
Specifically, a 5-man panel of justices of the court in their unanimous judgment read by Justice Mojeed Owoade yesterday maintained that after it carefully considered all the preliminary objections raised against the petition by the governor and the ANPP, it came to the conclusion that they were not meritorious and thus accordingly dismissed.“The appeal is meritorious and it succeeds, another panel other than the one headed by Justice Sani Adamu should be constituted to hear the matter o its merit.”
Reasons for this judgment shall be given at a latter date and respective parties are to bear their cost”, the appellate court added.
Meantime, Governor Shettima and his party, ANPP, yesterday vowed to take the case to the Supreme Court, contending that the 180 days period provided in the constitution for the conclusion of election petitions had already elapsed.
Addressing newsmen after the judgment, Speaker of the Borno state House of Assembly, Mr Goni Ali Modu, accused the appellate court of attempting to “give life to a dead corpse.”
It will be recalled that the petitioners had gone before the appellate court to challenge the verdict of the tribunal headed by Justice Sani Adamu, which on November 12, dismissed their suit and affirmed governor Shettima as the bona-fide winner of the gubernatorial contest.
While dismissing the petition by the PDP and its candidate, the tribunal in their unanimous judgment, dismissed the suit on the premise that the petitioners had since August 2011, abandoned the matter by failing to file requisite applications within the stipulated period for the pre-hearing notice.
Justice Adamu who read the tribunal’s judgment insisted that “a situation where the petitioner failed to bring an application for the issuance of a pre-hearing notice form amounts to an abandonment of case.”
Though the tribunal noted that it earlier dismissed the petitioner’s ex-parte motion filed on August 11, 2011 for the pre-hearing notice on ground that it lacked competence, it however acknowledged that the PDP and Goni had the right to seek an extension of time to file the said application, saying such request ought to be made within the time frame stipulated in the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
According to the former panel, under the Electoral Act 2010, the tribunal had no discretionary power to exercise in respect of Paragraph 41 (1) of the First Schedule which states that no application for extension of time shall be taken, stressing that, “It is our humble opinion that this tribunal is not empowered to use discretion in this circumstance.”
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