By NBF News

The Governorship Election Tribunal sitting in Makurdi yesterday dismissed Governor Gabriel Suswam's motion seeking to terminate the petition filed by the governorship candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Prof. Steve Ugbah challenging Suswam's election.

Counsel to Governor Suswam and that of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had challenged the jurisdiction of the tribunal to order the commencement of pre-trial session in the case.

This is just as the tribunal has also ruled in favour of Governor Suswam seeking to regularise the applications brought before it by him and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Mumir Ladan, while delivering his ruling on the juridiction of the tribunal to hear the petition, declared that the era of using technicalities to end justice would not be allowed.

He explained that the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), Paragraph 18 (1) (2) and (3) of the First Schedule of the Electoral Act laid out requirements for the initiation of pre-hearing session.

This, he said, the petitioner complied with, adding that at no point did the

Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) state clearly that motion should be used to activate pre-hearing session.

According to Ladan, the Act did not specify motion on notice or motion exparte, adding that Paragraph 41(1) relied upon by the first and third respondents did not apply in the matter.

The tribunal chairman ruled that pre-trial session was a necessary aspect of election petition where issues for determination were distilled, explaining that pre-trial could not be blocked under the prevailing circumstances.

'The applications of the first and third respondents lack merit and are accordingly dismissed,' he said.

Consequent upon the ruling, counsels to Governor Suswam, D.C. Denwigwe (SAN) and the PDP, Solomon Akuma (SAN) both commended the tribunal for its ruling and sought the tribunal to allow them move their motion to regularise their reply to the ACN petition.

They argued that since the tribunal had struck out the application challenging its juridiction on the petition, it behoved on the tribunal to allow them move the application filed on July 4 and 5 regularising their reply to the petitioner.

But the petitioner's counsel, S.A. Orkuma in his argument said the applications raised by the respondents should only be entertained and adjudicated along with substantive submission, stressing that the respondents' applications were filed out of time.

The tribunal chairman who later ruled in favour of the respondents stated that, 'one was seeking to construct and another was seeking to destroy but it is necessary to allow the first respondent to move his motion and put his house in order.'

However, counsel to the petitioner sought for some minutes to enable him gather relevant documents to argue on the respondents' move to regularise their motions.

In his ruling, the tribunal chairman granted the plea and stood down the proceeding for 30 minutes.

On the resumption of sitting, counsels to the first and second respondents moved their applications, which they said were filed on July 4 and 5 seeking reliefs that the applications were filed within the stipulated days and urged the tribunal to admit the applications.

But counsel to the ACN governorship candidate, Samuel Orkuma, in his submission urged the tribunal to dismiss the applications.

Justice Ladan adjourned till July 21 for ruling.