Hearing was, on Tuesday, stalled in the petition filed by Mr. Maduka Nelson Arum of the All Progressives Congress, APC, challenging the victory of Mr. Offor Chukwuegbo of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for the Enugu North/South Federal Constituency election.
There are reports that though the petition was slated for definite hearing, the petitioners failed to present any witness, prompting the respondents’ call for the dismissal of the petition.
When the case was called up, lead counsel of the 1st petitioner, Mr. O.U Ozor, who held the brief of S.I. Ameh, (SAN), told the Tribunal that he was applying for an adjournment.
He said, “we are making the adjournment mindful of the schedule of this court that we have only today and tomorrow; the reason we seeking adjournment is that we have in-house set-back that made it impossible for us to present our witnesses today. We will open and close our case tomorrow.”
While opposing the application, Offor’s counsel, N.P. Onyia told the Tribunal that “as far back as early last week, written hearing notices were issued on all the parties for commencement of hearing today.
“On Saturday, 10th July, 2019, today’s date was re-confirmed as when hearing will commence on the instant petition. All that it takes for hearing to commence is for the petitioner to put in a witness.
“The petitioners listed 13 witnesses but their Lordships have not been told why the petitioners cannot call at least one person out of these thirteen. All that Your Lordships have been told is that there is in-house set-back. This is nebulous, amorphous and meaningless expression.
“What is this in-house set-back? We have not been told; no cogent reason has been advanced for this application.
“I will, therefore, urge Your Lordships to treat the application as the petitioners’ unwillingness to proceed with the petition. Not even the 1st petitioner is in court on a day set aside for commencement of hearing.
“In the circumstances, rather than adjourning, I’m making a counter application for this petition to be struck-out for want of diligent prosecution, for want of seriousness on the part of the petitioners.”
While toeing the same line of argument, the counsel to the PDP, (2nd Respondent), Mr. Anthony Ani (SAN), said “there must be a cogent reason for such application to be granted. In this case, no reason has been given for the application.
He cited Paragraph 23, Sub Paragraph 1 and Paragraph 46, Sub Paragraph 3 of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act and called for the dismissal of the petition.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, (3rd Respondent) represented by Mr. H.I. Ogbu said it would rely on the discretion of the Tribunal.
In a ruling, the Chairman of the Tribunal, Hon. Justice H.H. Kerang held that hearing notices were issued and served on all the parties, adding that before that, the Tribunal and all the parties agreed on scheduling the case.
He said “the petitioners are not clear as to why this matter cannot go on today,” adding, however, that since the counsel to the petitioners had undertaken to start and close the case tomorrow, “we are inclined to granting this application.”
He held that the counter application would only apply if the petitioners failed to keep to their words tomorrow.
The case was adjourned till tomorrow, Wednesday, July 17 for the petitioners to open and close their case.