Adelani Adepegba, Abuja
The All Progressives Congress candidate in the 2019 House of Representatives election in Delta State, Collins Eselemo, has asked the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Ibrahim Muhammad, to probe the Delta State Election Petition Tribunal members for alleged judicial misconduct.
He also prayed the CJN to investigate the tribunal members for obstruction of justice and disobedience of higher authorities with regards to his election petition.
Eselemo in a petition to the CJN dated August 21, 2019, stated that the tribunal delivered a ruling in his absence, claiming that he abandoned his petition against the Peoples Democratic Party candidate, Nicholas Mutu, a claim he denied.
He explained that the tribunal members delivered the judgment after he sought the transfer of his case to another court outside Delta State.
The APC candidate explained that he had in a petition dated June 26, 2019, asked the Court of Appeal President to transfer his election petition to another tribunal because he believed the tribunal members would not give him justice.
But while waiting for the case to be transferred by the Appeal Court President, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, the petitioner said he was shocked to learn that his case had been dismissed by the tribunal.
Instead of handing off the case as prayed, Eselemo said the tribunal members went ahead to deliver a ruling on July 25, dismissing the case as abandoned.
Eselemo said the tribunal based its judgement on a fresh argument by the respondents “in a matter where arguments have been concluded, apparently so that a new point can be raised by counsel to first respondent.”
The petition read, “Prior to commencement of pre-hearing session, the first respondent filed a motion praying the tribunal to dismiss my petition on the ground that it was an abandoned petition, as according to him, I did not file any application for the issuance of pre-hearing notice as prescribed by the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended.”
Eselemo cited his earlier petitions to the Appeal Court President, the National Judicial Council and CJN which were also copied to the Chairman and Secretary of the Delta state election petition tribunal, Justice England Ngene and Suraju Gusau, respectively.
The petitioner also presented a response from the Court of Appeal President acknowledging his petition and assuring him that action would be taken on his request.
The letter with reference number, PCA/EPT/2019/Vol.V, dated July 3 was received by the APC candidate in Abuja.
The tribunal secretary declined to react to the allegations contained in Eselemo’s petition when contacted on Saturday, stating that “everything that has to do with the petition is now before the Court of Appeal.”