The Edo State governorship election petitions tribunal on Friday approved a substituted service order to be served on the winner of the September 19 election, Godwin Obaseki; his deputy, Philip Shaibu; and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The three-member tribunal, led by Abdulrazak Abdulkareem, ordered the substituted service at the inaugural sitting.
The chairperson of the tribunal, in his speech, also pledged to avoid external influence and to act in good faith.
The three-member tribunal was inaugurated on September 21 by Monica Dongban-Mensem, the president of the Court of Appeal.
Mr Obaseki was declared the winner of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on September 20 having secured 307,955 votes to defeat his closest rival, Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who scored 223,619 votes.
At the October 10 deadline, five petitions were filed, all seeking the nullification of the September 19 re-election of Mr Obaseki and Shaibu. The petitioners also called for a fresh election by INEC, that would exclude the PDP, and Mr Obaseki, requesting their disqualification over alleged forgery of their certificates.
Mr Abdulkareem said the petitions and processes should be posted on the wall of PDP’s state secretariat and Government House, Benin, while the pre-hearing sitting would hold on December 7 for the five petitions.
The petitions were filed by Action Democratic Party (ADP) and its governorship candidate, Iboi Emmanuel; Action Peoples Party (APP), without joining its governorship candidate, Amos Areloegbe; Action Alliance (AA) and its governorship candidate, Ukonga Onaivi; Allied Peoples Movement (APM), excluding its governorship candidate, Igbineweka Osamuede, and Tracy Agol, without joining her political party, the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).
The tribunal has 180 days from the date of filing the petitions to conclude hearing in the matters and deliver judgments.
Mr Abdulkareem said, “As you are very much aware, our assignment is time-bound. As such, we do not have the luxury of time. With the help of God Almighty, the tribunal is committed to complete its work on the five petitions filed before it, within the time frame allowed for it to complete its assignment.
“We, therefore, solicit the maximum cooperation of all the parties and their counsel and urge you all to be ready to work within the mandatory period stipulated by law.
“We wish to assure you that in our quest to get to the truth of the matters before us, we shall act in good faith, and shall do our work with an open mind, without any form of bias or appearance of any pre-conception. We also pledge not to lend ourselves to any form of external influence.”
While responding on behalf of all the counsel at the tribunal, Ken Mozia, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, assured that they would do their best to assist members of the tribunal to succeed, without wasting the time of the tribunal with frivolous applications/motions.
Ex parte applications were filed by the counsel, Douglas Ogbankwa, A.I. Osarenkhoe, F.I. Agbokha, and E.S. Osaigbovo for the ADP, APM, Agol, and APP respectively, seeking an order to serve the applications and processes through substituted service.
ADP and its governorship candidate asked the tribunal to disqualify Mr Obaseki over his first-degree certificate from the University of Ibadan and nullify the votes cast for him, thereby ordering INEC to conduct a fresh election involving all other qualified governorship candidates, excluding PDP and Mr Obaseki.
APM filed a petition alleging irregularities during the September 19 governorship election and alleging that Messrs Obaseki and Shaibu were not qualified to contest the poll.
APM also prayed for an order nullifying the entire governorship election of September 19, 2020, in Edo state, for substantial non-compliance with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, and the extant Electoral Act, 2010, as amended, thereby ordering a fresh election.
The petition from Ms Agol insisted that the governor was not qualified to contest the September 19 election.
Ms Agol’s sole ground for filing the petition was that Mr Obaseki, at the time of the poll, was not qualified to contest the election for allegedly presenting a false certificate.
She also prayed for an order to compel INEC to conduct a fresh election involving all the qualified candidates, excluding PDP and Obaseki, whom she alleged were constitutionally disqualified from contesting the 2020 governorship election, while the certificate of return issued to Obaseki by INEC must also be nullified.
Ms Agol alternatively sought a declaration that Mr Obaseki’s participation in the election should be declared null and void, having participated in the primary election process of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and later PDP, in respect of the same governorship election in Edo State.
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The APP, in the petition against Mr Obaseki, PDP, and INEC as respondents, with reference number: EPT/ED/GOV/02/2020, claimed that it was unlawfully excluded.
AA and its governorship candidate, in the petition with reference number: EPT/ED/GOV/03/2020, against Mr Obaseki, PDP and INEC (respondents), claimed that Mr Onaivi was also excluded unlawfully, despite being the validly-nominated candidate of the party, in line with the Electoral Act.
The party asked the tribunal to nullify the September 19 governorship election in Edo State, with fresh election to be ordered within 90 days, while the validly-nominated candidate (Onaivi of AA) should be included in the new ballot papers.
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