The Governorship Elections Petition Tribunal in Benue on Saturday set June 24 for definite hearing of the state governorship petition.
The tribunal Chairman, Justice Henry Olusiyi, made the announcement at the end of the pre-trial session with both parties resolving that all pending issues be considered during the hearing of the substantive petition.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Mr Emmanuel Jime and the All Progressive Congress (APC) had filed a petition challenging the re-election of Gov Samuel Ortom of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Ortom of the PDP polled 434,473 votes in the governorship election of the state declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to defeat his closest rival, Jime of the APC who scored 345,155 votes .
Olusiyi further warned that there would be strict compliance with adherence to the days to be allocated to each party during the hearing.
He said that during the pre-trial, some applications were struck out while rulings were reserved for some pending judgment day.
He adjourned until June 24 for definite hearing, adding that motion number 11 would be heard on the same date.
Earlier, Ortom’s lead counsel,Mr Sebastine Hon, SAN, told newsmen that his client was appealing against the decision to reserve ruling on its motion seeking to remove certain paragraphs from Jime’s response to his reply.
Hon explained that Mr Jime, in a response to his petition, introduced new facts and witnesses statement of oath which were not originally in the petition.
He argued that some of the paragraphs of Jime’s reply completely contravened the first schedule of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), pointing out that if those paragraphs were struck out, the petition would have no substance.
“We have made our positions on the inclusion of new witnesses. We are going to file an appeal today because it is better to address the issue now than later,” Hon said.
However, Mr Kehinde Eleja, SAN, one of the lead counsel to Jime, told newsmen that they did not introduce new witnesses as alleged by the respondents.
Eleja explained that his clients were only following the tribunal’s directive of inspection, adding that the witnesses in contention were those that performed certain roles during the inspection as ordered by the tribunal.
He said it was normal for the tribunal to reserve ruling on some motions pending the judgment day following the sensitive nature of an election tribunal.
“Far from the truth, the tribunal gave an order for us to inspect electoral materials, the witnesses that we want to call now are witnesses who performed certain roles during the inspection.
“We want to bring the report of the inspection in line with the order of the tribunal and make it beneficial to the case,”he said.
Eleja further said that his client had no issues for appeal at the moment