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APC, Sylva, pass vote of no confidence on Bayelsa guber election tribunal

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The All Progressives Congress, APC, and its governorship candidate in the November last year gubernatorial election in Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva on Monday in Abuja, passed a vote of no confidence on the Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal.

They accused the Tribunal headed by Justice Adekunle Adeleye of undue bias against them in the conduct of proceedings, findings and decisions and demanded its outright disbandment and reconstitution.

In a strongly worded petition to the President of the Court of Appeal, APC and Sylva accused the Tribunal of denying them their Constitutional right to a fair hearing as required by law.

Among others, APC and its governorship candidate claimed that they had lined up 234 witnesses to establish their petition against the declaration of Senator Douye Diri as a winner of the poll

In the petition dated March 4, 2024, they alleged that the Tribunal turned the table against them with an order that the 234 witnesses must be called within 7 days only.

The petition signed by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria SAN, Sylvester Emenike Elema said the APC and Sylva agreed to call 25 witnesses daily and lamented that the Tribunal allowed them to call only 8 witnesses per day.

In the face of the impossible tasks allegedly imposed on them, APC and Sylva complained that they had no option but to hurriedly close their cases on February 27 after calling only 49 out of their 234 witnesses.

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

Besides, APC and Sylva 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.

They claimed that the Tribunal distorted the 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 the same and done by the same person”.

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

They therefore demanded immediate dissolution of the Tribunal and reconstitution of a new one that would conduct unbiased proceedings in the remaining three-month life span of the petition.

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

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When the hearing was to resume on Monday, the Tribunal Chairman, Justice Adekunle Adeleye informed lawyers to various parties of a petition questioning the member’s neutrality and integrity and seeking indefinite adjournment in the hearing of the case.

Justice Adeleye said he did not know where the Tribunal members went wrong as alleged by the APC and Sylva and called for reactions.

Counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Charles Edosomwan, SAN, said 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 stood for Governor Douye Diri, Chukwuma Machukwu Ume SAN counsel to Deputy Governor Lawrence Ewhrujakpo and Tayo Oyetibo SAN who represented the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

After brief reactions, they agreed that the adjournment be granted as requested by the APC and Sylva.

In a short ruling, Justice Adekunle Adeleye 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 two petitioners.

The respondents in the APC and Sylva’s Petition marked EPT/BY/Gov/04/2023 are INEC, Governor Douye Diri, Deputy Governor Lawrence Ewhrujakpo and the People’s Democratic Party PDP.

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