It was a hot moment as usual as legal battle resumed between Petitioners’ Counsel and Respondents’ Counsel today in the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal ongoing in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State Capital.
Although the weather condition in the State capital is very cold due to downpour which started very early this morning but it has been a hot moment in the Governorship tribunal.
The tribunal today took a different dimension when the lead counsel to the Petitioners, Mr. J. S. Okutepa SAN returned after two days’ absence to take charge of the proceedings for the Petitioners.
After announcing his appearance, Okutepa, SAN went further to inform the tribunal that during yesterday’s proceedings while PW37 -PW40 were giving their testimonies, one of the Judges was absent on condition of ill health.
Okutepa also informed the tribunal that it would be counter productive for the tribunal to continue with today’s proceedings without the presence of the third Judge who is still absent.
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He cited the cases of Peter Osalo Vs Iwe-Eze Law Pavilion Electronic Report 47117 Court of Appeal page 16-17, and case of Ayeire Vs Olaewe reported in (2012) LPELR and Oyetola Vs Adeleke 2019 where one of the Judges was absent for two hours Supreme Court nullified the judgement of the tribunal.
He advised that proper things should be done to avoid the same scenario, adding that it is against the law for a three-member panel to conduct proceedings of the tribunal with two Judges.
The tribunal was turned to a baffle field when the respondents Counsel objected to the oral application and also cited Neyesom Wike Vs Dakuku Peterside 2016 LPELR 40036 at page 114-115 in support.
The tribunal Chairman Hon. Justice A. W. Yakubu adjourned for rulling by 11:00am.
Upon reconvening, Justice Yakubu ruled that Motions bordering on jurisdiction could be moved orally. He agreed with submissions of Okutepa SAN that the application was rightly moved.
Ruling further, the Chairman said it was incontrovertible that the third member of the Panel has been absent and on the strength of jurisdictional competence, the tribunal could not attain quorum as it could not sit as a two-member panel.
He consequently adjourned proceedings to Monday 22, July to allow for the return of the third member.