Jide Afolabi, Jos
The three-man panel election petition tribunal sitting in High Court 7 in Jos on the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, challenging the victory of Governor Simon Bako Lalong of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the last governorship election in the state has concluded pre-hearing.
The pre-hearing session which commenced weeks ago has been duly completed. All the processes and applications which were interlocutory in nature were taken.
In line with Section 285 Sub-section 14 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended and paragraph 12(5) of the Electoral Act, rulings on such applications that were argued, whether as regards to jurisdiction or regards to the competence of the petition itself were reserved till final judgement which is 180 days from the day the petition was filed.
The tribunal, however, adjourned till tomorrow, Saturday to bring out the pre-hearing report.
The report encompasses the schedule of the entire process. The tribunal will be sitting during the hearing between Mondays and Fridays from 9:30 am to 5 pm with an hour break in-between with the exception of Friday which would be 9:30 am to 1:00 pm to enable Muslim faithful to observe Jumat prayers.
The tribunal in conjunction with the Counsels allocated time to witnesses and 5 minutes was agreed for examination in chief for each witness and 10 minutes for cross-examination while 2 minutes was allocated for re-examination if the need arises. It was also agreed that even in terms of expert witnesses or other witnesses whose statement has not been uploaded and were called upon to come and give evidence, counsels would try as much as possible to quickly upload their witnesses’ statement so that they will also enjoy the same time allocated to witnesses.
The Counsels agreed that in order to have a proper hearing, witnesses must be well prepared ahead of sittings.
While speaking with journalists after the sitting, PDP lead Counsel, Mike Ozekhome, SAN said, “It’s a fair panel and very firm. They have elastic latitude of patience in terms of accommodating all parties.
“It also enjoys humour to reduce tension and makes a friendly affair. There could be peace even in war. We respect ourselves and the tribunal.”
The tribunal adjourned till tomorrow to take the Pre-hearing Report and the substantive hearing will commence on June 26, 2019.
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