Ekiti election tribunal relocates over insecurity as hearing starts
The Ekiti State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal on Monday announced its relocation to a yet to be disclosed venue after it formally opened its session amid threats of insecurity.
The tribunal, which was sitting at the premises of the Ekiti State High Court in Ado-Ekiti, witnessed a throng of party supporters at the opening in the morning despite a large deployment of security personnel to the venue.
It was learnt that the restive mob created a scene and almost manhandled people entering into the court.
There were also reports of gunshots by security operatives to bring sanity to the environment.
The fear of insecurity was so palpable that the entry into the venue was restricted and security operatives conducted searches on those gaining entrance, including journalists and judicial officers.
The state police command also deployed an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) and several police vans which were positioned in front of the court to ward off troublemakers.
The candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Kolapo Olusola, is challenging the victory of the All Progressives Congress’ candidate, Kayode Fayemi, at the July 14 election, praying the tribunal to declare him the validly elected governor of Ekiti State.
Mr Fayemi polled 197,459 to emerge winner against Mr Olusola, who received 178, 122 votes.
While the three-member panel resolved that the tribunal would be relocated due to security concerns, there were however strong indications that the choice of Abuja was being considered.
The ruling followed an oral application made by the counsel to the petitioner, Adebayo Adelodun, who cited cases of insecurity and threat to lives by the crowd massed at the court’s gate before the commencement of the sitting.
The application was supported by the counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC), Charles Edosomwan, the APC, Akin Olujimi, and counsel to the governor-elect, Kayode Fayemi.
The counsels complained that they were nearly mobbed by those suspected to be party goons on their way into the court in the morning, noting that the mob was not discriminatory in their attacks.
The tribunal, which rose for about an hour later reconvened to deliver its ruling through its Chairman, Suleiman Belgore.
Other judges in the panel are Aliyu Baba and Ebiyerin Omukoro respectively.
Mr Belgore sustained the issue of insecurity raised by the lawyers that there was threat to human lives around the court.
He said he personally had an encounter with the unruly crowd on his way into the court in the morning and recommended that the venue be relocated, a conclusion that was not opposed by any of the parties.
“Lawyers to the respondents expressed similar inclinations that the venue should be relocated to another city citing cases of insecurity to lives,” said the judge.
“We are critically mindful of the consequences of the applications made by the counsel to the petitioner, which was not opposed by the counsel to the respondents.
“We have rubbed minds together and came to the conclusion that this fear is real and apparent that the situation is becoming insecure and tense and we can’t trivialise such .
“We hereby grant the application because of the consequences the insecurity could have on this tribunal and the new venue shall be communicated through our secretary to all parties within 48 hours.”
Mr Belgore, earlier in his inaugural speech, promised that the panel would act truly as unbiased umpire and would not betray the confidence reposed in them by the Appeal Court President, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwal .
Mr Belgore added that the tribunal would comply strictly with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rule and the Practice Directive as issued by the President of the Court of Appeal.
He said the panel would not tolerate any act that could be inimical to smooth running of the tribunal regarding the hearing and dispensation of judgement within 180 days stipulated by the appeal court.
“It would be recalled that on the 14th July, 2018, election was held into the office of the Governor of Ekiti State . Following the declaration and return of Dr Fayemi of the APC as the winner, his co-contestant, Prof Olusola of the PDP are challenging the outcome
and declaration before this tribunal,” said Mr Belgore.
“We cannot lose sight of the importance of our oath of office, the sacred duties we owe our conscience and the judiciary. We therefore, wish to assure all parties counsel and indeed all and sundry that the field will not only be levelled but officiating shall be impartial ,
fair and strictly in accordance with the relevant provisions of our laws.
“Let me warn that the tribunal will not condone acts inimical to smooth proceedings. We hereby appeal to the members of the bar to show courtesy, diligence and due sense of professionalism in their appearances before us.
“We must all bear in mind at all times that section 285 of the constitution and Section 134(2) of the Electoral Act are clear that all petitions must be heard and judgements delivered within 180 days.
“So, we don’t have the luxury of time. We intend to be pedantic in our work while at the same time no red herring technicalities shall be entertained.
“To the security agencies, especially Department of State Security and police, we implore you to be fully alert and conscious of your operations. You cannot afford to exhibit laxity or laziness or indeed any slight indifference to security challenges in the course of performing our duties,” he said.
Credit: Premium Times