AKWA IBOM GOV TRIBUNAL:
FAILURE TO FORM QUORUM STALLS HEARING
In what could be largely seen as a potent reference to the Supreme Court ruling on the governorship tussle between Governor Oyetola of Osun State and Senator Demola Adeleke, in which the Apex Court based its judgement on the absence of the Judge who delivered the Lead Judgement, the Governorship Election Tribunal, sitting in Uyo the Akwa Ibom State capital, has adjourned sitting due to the absence of a member of the panel.
The tribunal, today, took a different dimension when the Lead Counsel to the Petitioner, Mr. J. S. Okutepa SAN returned after a two day absence to take charge of the proceedings for the Petitioner.
After announcing his appearance, Okutepa, SAN went further to inform the Tribunal that during yesterday’s proceedings while PW37 -PW40 were giving their testimonies, one of the Judges was absent on condition of ill health.
Okutepa also informed the tribunal that it would be counter productive for the tribunal to continue with today’s proceedings without the presence of the third Judge who is still absent.
He cited the cases of Peter Osalo Vs Iwe-Eze Law Pavilion Electronic Report 47117 Court of Appeal page 16-17, and case of Ayeire Vs Olaewe reported in (2012) LPELR and Oyetola Vs Adeleke 2019 where one of the Judges was absent and that led to the Supreme Court nullifying the judgement of the tribunal.
He advised that proper things should be done to avoid the same scenario, adding that it is against the law for a three-member panel to conduct proceedings of the tribunal with two Judges.
However, respondent’s Counsel objected to the oral application and also cited Neyesom Wike Vs Dakuku Peterside 2016 LPELR 40036 at page 114-115 in support.
Because of the contentious issues raised and conflicting authorities cited by Counsels, the Tribunal Chairman, Hon. Justice A. W. Yakubu, adjourned for rulling on the matter by 11:00am.
Upon reconvening, Justice Yakubu ruled that Motions bordering on jurisdiction could be moved orally. He agreed with the submission of Okutepa SAN that the application was rightly moved.
Ruling further, the Chairman said it was incontrovertible that the third member of the Panel has been absent and on the strength of jurisdictional competence, the tribunal could not attain quorum as it could not sit as a two-member panel.
He consequently adjourned proceedings to Monday 22, July to allow for the return of the third member.