Tribunal dismisses petition against Rivers PDP Senator

July 11th, 2019

…strike out application for bench warrant on INEC official

From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt

The National and Rivers State Assembly Election Tribunal sitting in Port Harcourt, yesterday struck out Petition filed by Mr Dighobu Obaghama, senatorial candidate of Social Democratic Party, SDP, for Rivers West Senatorial District , against the victory of Senator Betty Appiafy of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

The three man panel, led by Justice F. K Kiagama dismissed the petition over failure of the SDP candidate’s lawyer to participate in the pretrial hearing process in the matter.

According the Judge, the petitioner was not interested in participating in the pretrial hearing process, hence requested for adjournments three times even before prehearing of the petition.

Justice Kiagama held that the three times adjournment shows the unseriousness and an attempt to delay the matter by the petitioner.

The court also awarded a cost of Four Hundred Thousand Naira each to the first (Appiafy) and second respondents (PDP) and Two Hundred Thousand Naira (INEC) to the third respondents.

Speaking with newsmen immediately after the ruling, Counsel for Senator Betty Appiafy, I. A. Adenipe, lauded the court for the ruling, adding that the penalty for continued seeking for adjournment is loss of the petition.

Hr said: “The petition was dismissed for failure of the petitioner to comply with paragraph 18 (11) of the rules of the tribunal. The petitioner had in three times seek for adjournment of the petition and that prompted the dismissal of the said petition by the candidate of SDP against Senator Betty Appiafy”.

On his part, counsel for SDP, Somina Elekima said the Tribunal was right in its decision.

Elekima who is also SDP Acting State Legal Adviser said ” He (Obaghama) has gone to court without the authorisation or consent of the party, so the party has approached the court for his name to be struck out. He has resisted that approach which took sometime and finally it was ruled today and struck out.

“Upon the struck out, the matter was ripe for prehearing, unfortunately his counsel were not ready for prehearing after asking for adjournment for two times earlier and by the rules of the tribunal, the court had no option but to struch put the petition.”

On his part, Collins Dike lawyer to SDP Candidate Obaghama said the Tribunal did not hear his application on merit, promising his client will review the tribunals decision.

Similarly, the Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Port Harcourt, has dismissed an application by counsel for Victor Fingesi, governorship candidate of Action Democratic Party, ADP, seeking for bench warrant on official of Independent National Electoral Commission, over alleged refusal to tender commission documents in the court.

The ADP lawyer, Dolapo Tella-Attoni, had asked the court to Subpoena the INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voters Education Committee, Mr Festus Okoye, to come and tender some press releases issued by him during the March 9, 2019 Governorship election in Rivers State .

Delivering his ruling on the application which was argued by the INEC Counsel, Dr Garba Tetengi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, the three man panel, led by Justice K.A Ojiako, noted that the said INEC official was not served personally with the Subpoena and therefore the application for a bench warrant issued against the INEC official was refused.

It was also discovered that the witness (INEC official) expenses in the matter has not been paid by the petitioner, the court however dismissed the application.

The court was adjourned till today for continuation of cross examination of witnesses.

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