Facts have emerged on why the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, reconstituted the Osun State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal.
Reports have it that Justice Bulkachuwa’s decision was informed by the need to allow more judges to preside over post-election cases and prevent a situation where the same set of judges sit at election tribunals.
It was also learnt that the Appeal Court President decided to use new judges for the Osun tribunal on realising that some members of the earlier panel had sat on similar election cases.
It was gathered that the reconstituted panel will begin sitting “very soon” in Osogbo, the state capital.
Appeal Court’s spokesperson Mrs. Sa’adatu Musa confirmed the dissolution of the panel, which was earlier constituted to hear the petitions arising from the recently concluded Osun governorship election.
She said by reconstituting the panel, the Appeal Court President merely exercised her constitutional powers to so act.
Mrs. Musa said the reconstitution of the panel was a mere administrative decision meant to ensure orderliness.
She said: “It is true that the Osun panel has been reconstituted by the President. The Appeal Court President is not required to give reasons for her action. The law allows her to determine who sits in any panel.
“The earlier panel has not started sitting. So, there is no need for anyone to be suspicious. The new panel will soon begin sitting,” she said.
Members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Osun State yesterday protested at the State High Court in Osogbo the “disbandment” of the tribunal.
The party’s supporters accused the ruling APC of being behind the disbandment, saying they would resist “any attempt to subvert the will of the people of Osun State”.
A PDP leader, Niyi Owolade, who is also a former Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General, described the alleged disbandment of the tribunal as an attempt to “commit a second robbery against the people of Osun State”.
Owolade, who expressed worry over the disbandment, noted that the party filed a petition on Tuesday in which he said the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the governor-elect, Mr. Gboyega Oyetola and the APC were joined as respondents.
He said: “While we have been able to serve the first respondent, the second and the third respondents declined service. So, we brought an application here yesterday (Wednesday) for substituted service.
“The application was to have been heard 9 a.m today, but we were surprised when we heard that the panel had been disbanded. What is even more surprising is that they disbanded a panel without replacement.
“We all know that election petition matters are sui jeneris. Our 180 days started counting from October 16. Section 285, sub-section 6 of the 1999 Constitution is clear about that.
“By the 180-day duration, a final judgment on this matter is to be delivered on or before April 15, 2019. Time is of essence.
“We are surprised that the President of Appeal Court, who is saddled with the responsibility of constituting an election tribunal, has not deemed it fit to put in place a new panel.”
The ruling APC in Osun State expressed dismay at what it called the “shenanigans” of the PDP on the dissolution of the tribunal.
In a statement yesterday in Osogbo, the state capital, by its Director of Publicity, Research and Strategy, Kunle Oyatomi, APC described PDP’s protest as “irresponsible and desperate”.
The statement said: “Nothing could be more absurd than the PDP’s accusation of the APC as the brain behind the dissolution of the Electoral Tribunal. We will like the people of Osun to remember that this same phenomenon occurred in 2014 when the same PDP went to tribunal, attempting to annul the re-election of Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola at the time.
“By our record, which is public knowledge, the tribunal was dissolved three times. Because we did not know what was responsible for the dissolution, the APC did not issue stupid statements nor was any irresponsible protest organised against those dissolutions.
“This was because we were neither privy to, nor was it our responsibility to question the action of the Judiciary. We had faith in the process and we allowed it to run its course. This was at a time the PDP itself was in charge of government in Abuja.
“The PDP should be called to order because it is about time it got responsible. What we are witnessing is an escalation of the distrust in the political process and a lack of faith in the Judiciary, which does no good to our democracy.
“We are not inclined to engage the PDP in an unnecessary argument over the judicial process. Let the justice system play itself out and our politicians are obligated to respect the decisions of the court.
“Pretending as the PDP is doing to ascribe ulterior motives to the dissolution of the Electoral Tribunal is to assume knowledge that is not available to the public. Worst of all, to accuse the APC and the Judiciary of collusion to miscarry justice without an iota of proof is a criminal action.
“Finally, we are sick and tired of PDP’s habitual lying; it’s about time the party changed its course and became an agent of truth rather than a megaphone of lies and instigators of political rascality.”