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Tribunal Suspends Sylva’s petition against Diri indefinitely over alleged bias




By Stephen Asaba-ase

The All Progressives Congress, along with its candidate in the Bayelsa State gubernatorial election, Timipre Sylva, has accused the election petition tribunal in Abuja of bias.

The APC and Sylva insisted an outright dissolution of the petition tribunal led by Justice Adekunle Adeleye and the reformation of another panel.

The APC and its candidate, Sylva, are challenging the re-election of Governor Duoye Diri, and his deputy, Lawrence Ewhrujakpo, in the November 11, 2023 governorship election.

The Independent National Electoral Commission had declared Diri the winner at the poll after polling 175, 196 votes to win his closest rival, Sylva of the APC who scored 110,108 votes.

Disappointed by Sylva and the APC, they approached the tribunal to questioned the announcement of Diri as the winner of the election.

Sylva and his party had closed their case file at the tribunal in the last proceedings after calling their witnesses, included is a former Commissioner of Police in the state, Akeem Alausa.

At the proceedings on Monday, the Chairman of panel, Justice Adeleye, annouced that a petition challenging the members’ fairness and integrity and seeking indefinite adjournment in the hearing of the case had been filed.

The petition was dated March 4, 2024, the Sylva and the APC indict the tribunal of denying them their constitutional right to a fair hearing as enshrined in the law.

They argued that the seven days that the tribunal gave to them was not enough to field their 234 witnesses and it was equal to denying them a fair hearing.

They said we had planned in calling 25 witnesses per day but the panel limited them to eight witnesses daily.

Sylva and the APC claimed that the situation forced them to close their case file untimely without calling all their witnesses.

“In the face of this impossible situation, the petitioners had no choice but to close their case on Tuesday 27th February 2024 after calling only 49 witnesses out of the 234 witnesses,” they said.

The petitioners also asserted that the tribunal twisted the oral testimonies of their witnesses. They have also scruitinized the record of proceedings and had also made some findings and decisions in respect of the genuiness and honesty of the polling unit results they tendered.

“With the study of the record of proceedings, we were baffled to discover that the panel had already made their inquest and reached decisions in respect of the authenticity and weightiness of the documents (polling unit results) produced by the petitioners even before the conclusion of the case.

The petitioners avers that it is obvious them that they could not get justice from the tribunal.

They stated further, “It is obvious from the forgoing that the we cannot get justice from the tribunal as currently constituted, the tribunal chairman has descended into the arena of the legal conflict between the parties.

“Due to the abnormalities mentioned above, we honestly request Your Lordship to dissolve the membership of the Tribunal and reconstitute another panel.

“we have up till May 28, 2024, before the expiring date of the tribunal. There is still enough time for a novel tribunal to start de novo and conclude the trial within the stipulated duration of 180 days.”

“Also, in a separate letter Sylva and the APC brought to the tribunal through their counsel, R. O. Balogun, and demanded that the tribunal should adjourn proceedings indefinitely pending when Court of Appeal President will come up with a decision on the petition.

“In a short ruling, Justice Adeleye adjourned the case sine die (indefinitely).

He noted that they would wait for the conclusion of the Appeal court President on the allegations against the panel.

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