The APC has asked the Plateau Local Government Elections Tribunal to strike out the 31 petitions filed by the PDP, citing alleged failure to reply to pre-hearing questions within the seven days required by law.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the tribunal was inaugurated on November 23, to determine the petitions arising from the results of the October 10 local government elections.
Results declared by the Plateau State Independent Electoral Commission showed that the APC swept the polls in the 13 local governments the election was conducted.
Governor Simon Lalong had left out four local governments – Jos North, Jos South, Riyom and Barkin-Ladi – citing security concerns.
At the first pre-hearing on Thursday, Chief Garba Pwul (SAN), Counsel to the APC, the first respondent, faulted the petitioners’ Counsels for not filing their reply to pre-hearing questions within the 7-day constitutional time frame.
Pwul asked the tribunal to dismiss all the 31 petitions before it, for that failure to obey the tribunal.
In his response, Lawrence Anyia, lead Counsel of the petitioners, applied for adjournment on the grounds that the tribunal registry had not been able to serve all the respondents with their (petitioners) answers to the pre-hearing questions.
Anyia spoke through Samuel Oguntuyi.
He said: “My Lord, with what we have discovered here today, we wish to apply for an adjournment to enable the registry serve all the respondents with our answers to the pre-hearing questions.
“We have, indeed, filed the answers but it appears that not all the respondents have been served; so, it will not be convenient for us to continue with the business of the day.
“In the light of this, my Lord, we apply for a short adjournment to enable the registry do the needful.’’
In response, Pwul objected to the application and faulted the petitioners for not obeying the tribunal’s constitutional time frame of seven days within which to file and serve all respondents before the pre-hearing date.
Pwul had claimed that the petitioners had flouted the order of the tribunal, which he claimed earlier gave them (petitioners), 48 hours within which to file their answers to the pre-hearing questions.
He said: “For disobeying the tribunal, the petitioners should be made to face the consequences as stipulated by law.”
Pwul referred the tribunal to section 18 (12) of the 1st Schedule of Plateau State Electoral Law, which, he noted, was clear about any petitioner’s failure to file and serve respondents within seven days.
He said: “The petitions should, therefore, be considered as abandoned, and dismissed.
“We are of the belief that the petitioners are out of time having failed to do the needful. In applying that section of the electoral act, all the 31 petitions should be dismissed and struck out.”
In reply, Anyia debunked Pwul’s claim that the tribunal had made an order directing the petitioners to file their answers within 48 hours.
He said: “The truth is that the answers have been filed appropriately; even PLASIEC has already been served.
My Lord, there was no day that this tribunal gave us 48 hours within which to file our answers to the pre-hearing questions because on the day we were to have the first pre-hearing, the tribunal did not sit. How and where was that order given to us?
“On section 18(12) of the electoral act raised by the respondents, it is predicated only on five fundamental issues, especially if a party failed to attend pre-hearing orders, or failed to prepare for it.
“I therefore hold that this objection and application to dismiss all our petitions do not hold water. I urge your lordship to disregard this application and adjourn the case to enable the registry serve all the respondents with our answers.”
Justice Jovita Rinjin, after listening to all sides, fixed December 17 to rule on the matter.
NAN reports that the ruling on the request by the respondents will determine whether hearing will continue or if the tribunal will wind-up its assignment on that day.