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APC, Sylva want termination of Bayelsa election tribunal over alleged bias

Sylva alleged that the tribunal was bias in the conduct of proceedings and demanded its outright reconstitution.

Chief Timipre Sylva

The APC and Sylva alleged that the tribunal, headed by Justice Adekunle Adeleye, was bias in the conduct of proceedings, findings and decisions, therefore, demanded its outright disbandment and reconstitution.

In a petition to the President of the Court of Appeal, the party and its candidate accused the tribunal of denying them their constitutional right to fair hearing as required by law. They claimed that they had lined up 234 witnesses to establish their petition against the declaration of Gov. Douye Diri as winner of the poll.

In the petition dated March 4 and signed by Sylvester Elema, SAN, they alleged that the tribunal turned the table against them with an order that the 234 witnesses must be called within seven days only.

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The lawyer said though they had agreed to call 25 witnesses daily, they lamented that the tribunal allowed them to call only eight witnesses per day. He said it was against this backdrop that they had no option than to hurriedly close their case on February 27 after calling only 49 out of their 234 witnesses.

Elema submitted that the action of the tribunal was a clear breach of the rights of the petitioners to fair hearing by preventing them from calling all their witnesses when the panel still had three months to sit.

Besides, he alleged that in the records of proceedings they obtained, the tribunal made several comments and observations in writing which pointed to the facts that the tribunal had made up its mind to go the way of the respondents.

He claimed that the tribunal distorted oral testimony of their witnesses in the record of proceedings and had also made findings and decisions in respect of the authenticity and weight of polling unit election results they tendered.

The tribunal was accused of coming to the wrong conclusions in its findings that “the pattern of writing witness statements on oath employed by the petitioners was same and done by same person.”

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He also accused the tribunal of being grossly unfair to them in its written comments that “comparisons done on two exhibits showed same lettering.”

The senior counsel therefore demanded for immediate dissolution of the tribunal and reconstitution of a new one that would conduct unbiased proceedings in the remaining three months life span of the petition.

In a separate letter they brought to the tribunal through their counsel R. O. Balogun, APC and Sylva demanded that the tribunal should adjourn proceedings in the matter indefinitely pending the time the Court of Appeal President would come out with a decision on the petition.

Upon resumed hearing on Monday, Justice Adeleye informed lawyers to various parties of a petition questioning the members neutrality and integrity and seeking indefinite adjournment in the hearing of the case.

The judge said that he did not know where the tribunal members had gone wrong as alleged by APC and Sylva and called for reactions.

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)’s lawyer, Charles Edosomwan, SAN said that both APC and Sylva were not fair to the tribunal in their allegations of bias and distortion of facts.

In the same vein, similar views were expressed by Chris Uche, SAN, who appeared for Gov. Diri; Chukwuma Machukwu-Ume, SAN, counsel to Deputy Governor, Lawrence Ewhrujakpo, and Tayo Oyetibo, SAN, who represented People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

After brief reactions, they agreed that the adjournment be granted as requested by complainants. Justice Adeleye thereafter adjourned the matter sine-die (indefinitely) to await the decision of the Court of Appeal President on the allegations of bias and denial of fair hearing as raised by the petitioners.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that while the APC and Sylva filed the petition marked: EPT/BY/Gov/04/2023, INEC, Gov. Diri, Ewhrujakpo and PDP are respondents.

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