By Kalshingi H Jedidah Gombe
Governorship election petition tribunal sitting in Gombe has on Saturday extended pre-hearing session in the court suit between Alh Inuwa Yahaya of the All Progressive Congress (APC), and Governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to July 7th 2015.
The Tribunal’s pre-hearing which was supposed to end on Saturday 4th July 2015 was rescheduled following the Tribunal ruling which granted request submitted by the petitioner’s counsel seeking for an extension of the pre-hearing date in other to allow the petitioner collect all results of forensic examination of electoral documents as ordered by the Tribunal on 19th June 2015.
Earlier during the tribunal’s sitting, counsel to the petitioner Ayola Ajayi who submitted the motion requesting for extension of pre-hearing date, said, his motion was on the basis that the petitioners needed more time to establish their case by collecting results of the forensic examination of the electoral documents.
He argued that, the petitioners received on Saturday 4th July 2015, a letter of invitation to conduct inspection of the electoral materials, and that the petition needed time to compile the results, adding that, it was practically impossible for the petitioner to prosecute without the results of the forensic examination of the said documents. He argued further that, paragraph 18(9) of first schedule of the electoral act 2010, has guaranteed that, the Tribunal has the power to extend the pre-hearing date.
But counsel to Governor Dankwambo (first respondent), Barrister Zubairu Umar, objected the petitioner’s motion arguing that, the motion was an attempt to render useless the schedules of the tribunal as earlier agreed by both parties.
On his part, counsel to the second respondent (PDP) Barr Achana Gayus Yaro said, the petitioner’s motion was belated, arguing that, the Tribunal has passed the stage of tendering motions as the Tribunal was about to commence hearing. He added that, the motion constitute amendment of the petition.
Also on the issue of order for photocopying of electoral materials, Yaro submitted that, such was not part of the order granted by the Tribunal, adding that, since the Tribunal had already set aside the order for recount of casted votes, an order for photocopies should also be denied.
Counsel to the third respondent (INEC) Barr Mahmud Umar, kicking against the petitioner’s motion also stated that, submission of the motion would amount to rendering the earlier agreed schedule by both parties as ineffective, saying, the petitioner could continue with collection of results even during the hearing period.
The Tribunal headed by Chief Justice Mathew Adewara, on hearing submissions and arguments from both parties, over ruled the respondent’s objections on the grounds that, the Tribunal’s interest was to accord fair hearing to both parties, he said, “it is our view that it would amount to degree of lack of fair hearing not to allow the petitioner establish his case, it is better for the Tribunal to lean on the side of justice rather that leaning on technicality.” he said.
Meanwhile, on the issue of INEC timetable for the inspection of election documents, the Tribunal directed that, all parties should move on with the inspection as scheduled, that the Tribunal’s decision was without prejudice to consider the motion on its merit.