The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has called for the immediate reconstitution of the Osun State governorship election petition tribunal.
The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement, warned that any further delay will jeopardise the course of justice in the case.
The PDP fears that the integrity of the judiciary is at stake if the disbanding of the panel is not addressed.
“We invite Nigerians to note that in our lawful effort to reclaim our stolen mandate, PDP duly filed its petition on Tuesday, October 15, 2018, in accordance with section 285 (6) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which prescribed that judgment must be delivered on or before 180 days,” the PDP said.
It added, “While the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was served, the APC and its candidate [allegedly] evaded service.
“Consequently, the PDP on Wednesday, October 17, 2018, applied for substituted service, which was slated for hearing today, Thursday, October 18, 2018, only to be informed that the panel has been disbanded on Wednesday without any reason and without providing a new panel to hear our matter.”
The party told the President of the Court of Appeal that disbanding the panel without setting up a new one would be “a deliberate attempt” to prevent the PDP from serving the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate, as well as meet the constitutional 180-day time frame for the determination of the case at the tribunal.
“Election petition matters are sui generis, with specific timeframe allotted to various stages up to the final determination,” it said.
“The failure to set up a new panel to timeously hear our application for substituted service on APC and its candidate smacks of a shenanigan to deny our party full justice in the matter.”
The PDP, therefore, urged the President of the Court of Appeal not to bow to pressure and avoid acts that are capable of dragging the reputation of the judiciary in the mud.
It also called on concerned individuals and relevant organisations to rise against any force working against justice in the land.
Some members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Osun State had stormed the premises of the state high court on Thursday to raise alarm over the alleged disbandment of the 3-man election petition tribunal was set up to adjudicate complaints arising from the conduct of the September 22 governorship election.
According to reports, the doors leading to the courtroom at the court premises were under lock and key while the registry of the election tribunal was also shut.
One of the counsels to senator Ademola Adeleke, the PDP candidate, Mr Niyi Owolade, told journalists that they came for the hearing of an application on substituted service but were told by court officials that the panel had been disbanded.
Owolade said “We filed our petition on Tuesday, 16th of October and we tried to effect service to the three respondents, namely INEC (1st), Gboyega Isiaka Oyetola (2nd) and APC, being the (3rd) respondent.
“While we were able to serve the 1st respondent, the 2nd and the 3rd respondents declined service. So, we brought an application here yesterday for substituted service. The application was to have been heard 9.00 am today (Thursday), but we were surprised when we heard that the panel had been disbanded. What is even more surprising is the fact that you have disbanded and you have replaced.
“We all know that election petitions are swis generis. Our 180 days starts on the 16th of October, which was the day of filing, Section 285, Sub-Section 6 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as Amended is clear about. So, judgment is to be given on or before 18th of April, 2019, I mean the final judgment.
“But, if you have 180 days which has commenced and we cannot effect service which the law allows (of which order we would have gotten today has been denied), we are surprised that the President of the Court of Appeal saddled with the responsibility of empanelling election tribunal has not deemed it fit with greatest respect to her, to have put in place a new panel simultaneously. We are surprised that we don’t have a new panel yet. We hope that would be done soonest”.
When contacted to speak on the matter the court registrar, Lawrence Arojo, declined to speak to the press.