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By Abdulwahab  Abdulah
LAGOS - The new panel of the National Assembly/Legislative House Election Petition Tribunal yesterday maintained that it will hear the petition filed by the candidate of Labour Party, Durosinmi-Etti, against the election of Mrs Oluremi Tinubu, candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria on merit.

Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice A. A. Nwaigwe, said while reacting to the preliminary objection by Tinubu and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, that 'nothing will stop us from hearing the petition on its merit.'

Justice Nwaigwe noted that the directive of the Court of Appeal was that the petition should be heard on its merit, insisting that the panel will not allow any preliminary objection to prevent it from hearing the petition.

He said any party before the tribunal was free to approach the Court of Appeal if he was not happy with the judgment of the tribunal.

Respondents, including INEC (1st Respondent), Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, (2nd respondent) and Mrs. Tinubu (3rd respondent) have asked the tribunal to either strike out or dismiss the petition without going into the substantive issues in the petition.

However, Chief Chukwuma Ekomaru, SAN, representing Labour Party had in a Motion on Notice, dated June 20, sought leave of the tribunal to bring two additional witnesses.

But lawyer to INEC, Mr. Wale Adetomiwa, in his preliminary objection, argued that the petitioner was out of time and should be denied the opportunity to call additional witnesses.

Mrs Tinubu, through her counsel, Mrs. Alonge, in her submission, urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition on the ground that it was fundamentally defective and vested no jurisdiction in the tribunal to adjudicate on.

The tribunal has fixed December 8 to rule on the preliminary objections, while also fixing January 4 for the adoption of written addresses and conclusion of hearing.

The Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos had in its judgment, directed the election petition filed by Labour Party, challenging the decision of the tribunal, be heard de novo (afresh) by a new election panel to be constituted by President Court of Appeal.

In its lead judgment delivered by Justice Helen Ogunwumiju, supported by Justice R. N. Pemu and Justice M A Danjuma, the court held that the tribunal was wrong when it dismissed the petition filed by Labour Party on the basis that its application for pre-hearing was made through letter to the secretary of the tribunal and not by a Motion.