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Tension Over Delay In Ekiti Tribunal Judgment

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With just three days to it’s 180-days shelf life, there are concerns that the Ekiti State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal may not conclude its assignment within the time allotted by the constitution.

Mr. Segun Oni, the candidate of the Social Democratic Party in the June 18, 2022 election, is challenging the electoral victory of incumbent governor, Mr. Abiodun Oyebanji.

The tribunal, chaired by Justice Wilfred Kpochi, from Benue Judicial Division, adjourned indefinitely for judgement on November 5, 2022, after parties in the matter had adopted their written addresses.

Other members of the Tribunal include: Justices Z.I
Zadawa from Bauchi Judicial Division and J.A Atsen from
Plateau Judicial Division.

Fifty days after the ad-journment, the tribunal is yet to signal its preparedness to deliver the judge-ment, putting parties in the petition and the state, on the edge.
If the petition isn’t decided within 180 days, it becomes null and void according to laws governing judicial intervention in the electoral system.

The 180-day deadline expires on January 2, 2023, while the constitutional deadline begins on the day the petition is filed. Mr. Oni filed his petition on July 7, 2022 and his lawyers spent five weeks to prove his case, before the tribunal.

As of press time, there were no hearing notices to parties for judgement date.
With Monday, December 26 and Tuesday, December 27 already declared as public holidays by the Federal Government, the Tribunal has just Wednes-day, Thursday, Friday and Saturday of next week to deliver the judgement within time before the end of 2022.

While January 1, 2023
is a Sunday, the next day, Monday, which marks the end of the 180 days, Is a public holiday.

A source in the secretariat of the tribunal however allayed fears of parties in the petition, assuring that the judgement would still be delivered within time.
The source noted that the judgement could be delivered during the public holiday, since the tribunal can sit on such days.

The source assured the tribunal that members were well aware of the time con-straint.
Oni’s petition is founded on dual constitutional is-sues.
He is challenging the validity of Oyebanji’s nomination as the candidate of the governing party, due to the participation of Yobe State governor, Mr. Mai Mala-Buni, while serving as the acting national chairman of the party.
Buni served a total of 640 days in that capacity, which has thrown numerous constitutional challenges in the path of the party’s candid-ates.

Mr. Oni is specifically claiming that apart from Buni being ineligible to be governor and party chairman simul-taneously, he had stopped being the acting chair of the party when he signed Oye-bani’s nomination to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Another issue raised by the petitioner is the certificate controversy of the current deputy governor, Mrs.
Monisade Afuye, as Oye-banji’s running mate.

The petitioner is calling for the disqualification of the duo, due to the alleged discrepancies in her aca- demic records, which Su- preme Court’s precedent, has held, as a ground for disqualification.

Disgraced former Enugu Chief Judge, Innocent Umezulike was fired by NJC in 2016 for failing to deliver ruling in a matter 126 days after final addresses were adopted by parties.

He was also indicted for receiving a N10 million donation from Arthur Eze, a businessman, who had two cases in his court.

In 2017, he was arraigned for alleged corruption be- fore Justice A.O Onovo of the Enugu State High Court.
Umezulike, an associate professor of Law, eventually died on June 11, 2018.

Tribune

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