The Court of Appeal, Abuja division, yesterday voided the dismissal of the petition of Senator Smart AfolabiAdeyemi by the Kogi State National Assembly Election petition tribunal that sat in Lokoja.
The appellate court faulted the hasty ways and manners the petition was thrown out by the tribunal headed by Justice AkpanIkpeme on June 18th on technicalities that that it said were not backed up by laws.
A retrial of the petition was ordered by the court which directed an accelerated trial within the time allowed by section 185 of the 1999 constitution. The section stipulates that all petitions must be heard and judgment delivered within 180 days.
Delivering judgment in the appeal filed by the aggrieved Adeyemi, the Appeal Court knocked the tribunal for relying heavily on technicalities to determine the petition and ordered a retrial on merit in the interest of substantial justice.
Justice Mohammed Adume, who delivered the unanimous judgment of the 3 – man panel of Justices, disagreed with tribunal that the petition was not filed within the 21 days frame allowed by law. .
The appellate court also rejected the position of the tribunal that the response of the petitioner to the reply of the defendant (Melaye) was filed seven days after being served with the reply as against the five days allowed by law.
Justice Adume held that there was no affidavit evidence from the bailiff of the tribunal that the reply of Melaye to the petition was served on the petitioner on May 13 as held against the petitioner by the tribunal.
“From the available record, the petitioner was reportedly served with the response of the defendant within 26 minutes the response was filed at the registry of the tribunal but for all intent and purposes, it is practically impossible for the petitioner to have been served with the response within 26 minutes more so, when the contact address of the petitioner is outside the tribunal premises in Lokoja.
“It is against natural sequence of human events for a court process to have been served on recipient in just 26 minutes when the recipient is not within the court premises”.
Justice Adume held that deposition by one AbubakarSadiq Mohammed on the services of the tribunal process on the petitioner was inconsistent and not logical and should not have been believed by the tribunal.
“Findings of the tribunal that the service was effected within 26 minutes was not supported with affidavit by the tribunal bailiff. The tribunal was wrong in its hasty conclusion and in striking out the petition on technicality”.
“A tribunal has the duty to verify and evaluate evidence before it in order to arrive at a just conclusion. The tribunal was wrong in stopping the train while on its way to justice”. Justice Adume said.
The court, therefore, ordered the tribunal headed by Justice AkpanIkpeme to retry the petition.