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By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party, ANDP, on Wednesday, asked the Court of Appeal in Abuja to strike out its defence to the appeal Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa State filed to challenge the tribunal judgement that sacked him from office and ordered a fresh election in the state.
ANDP which lodged the petition that led to governor Diri’s sack told the appellate court that it was no longer interested in processes its lawyer, Mr. Kehinde Ogunwumiju, SAN, filed to defend the judgement of the tribunal.
Specifically, the party, in a motion dated September 23, prayed the appellate court for an order striking out its briefs of argument and all other processes it filed in governor Diri’s appeal and in two other sister appeals that were lodged by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
ANDP anchored its application on the ground that its gubernatorial candidate, King George, earlier withdrew from its case at the tribunal and equally left the party.
It told the court that in the event that a fresh election is conducted in Bayelsa State as ordered by the tribunal, it would be left without a gubernatorial candidate.
Meanwhile, the appellate court adjourned its proceedings on the matter till Thursday, following another application the party filed to change its lawyer.
The notice of change of counsel dated September 23, was filed by another lawyer, Gabriel Egbule, without the knowledge of Ogunwumiju, SAN, who prosecuted the party’s case at the tribunal.
Consequently, Ogunwumiju who appeared before the court to represent the party, sought a short adjournment to confirm the development with his client.
” My Lords I am not aware of the motion for change of counsel. I would not have appeared in court to announce my appearance on behalf of the 1st respondent if I was aware of this development”, he submitted.
Although counsel to the appellants led by Chief Chris Uche, SAN, who appeared for governor Diri, objected to the oral application for an adjournment, the appellate court said it was minded to shift the case till Thursday.
The three-man panel of justices of the appellate court headed by Justice Stephen Adah, however, frowned at the way and manner the motion for change of counsel was filed.
“Although a party has the right to a counsel of his choice, the procedure should follow due process. Justice is according to law and not at the whims and caprice of a party. This is not a practice that should be tolerated”, Justice Adah warned.
It will be recalled that the Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal had in a majority judgement by two out of the three-man panel of Justices, on August 17, voided the outcome of the gubernatorial election that held in the state on November 16, 2019, over the exclusion of ANDP in the contest.
Two members of the panel, Justices Sikiru Owodunni and Yunusa Musa, said they found merit in ANDP’s contention that it was unlawfully excluded from participating in the governorship election by INEC, despite the fact that it fulfilled all the statutory requirements.
Justice Musa who read the lead judgement held that the tribunal was satisfied that INEC illegally excluded ANDP and its governorship candidate, King George, from the election.
However, in a dissenting judgement, Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Ibrahim Sirajo, affirmed governor Diri’s election after he dismissed the petition for being statute-barred.
Justice Sirajo said there was evidence that ANDP was disqualified from the election for fielding an ineligible candidate.
He noted that the party nominated an underaged deputy governorship candidate, who admitted that he was 34 years old, instead of the 35 years age bracket the Constitution stipulated.
Governor Diri had in a 12-ground of Appeal he filed on August 18, urged the appellate court to set aside the majority judgement of the tribunal and uphold the minority decision that affirmed his election.
Vanguard News Nigeria
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Source: Vanguard News.