Benue State Governor, Hyacinth Alia, his Deputy, Sam Odeh, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) including the All Progressives Congress (APC) has appealed to the State Governorship Election Tribunal for more time to commence their defence following a the petition by the opposition party.
It would be recalled that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its governorship candidate, Titus Uba in the March 18, 2023 election, had issued a petition against the parties involved over the controversy surrounding Alia’s Deputy, Odeh’s Form EC-9.
To this, the PDP and its candidate are alleging that Odeh obtained the form from INEC, allegedly filled, signed and submitted to the electoral body, saying that the said INEC Form EC-9 was sworn to before an Abuja High Court.
Their counsel, Samuel Irabor wrote to the Chief Registrar, High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja seeking to verify the authenticity of the INEC Form EC-9.
According to them, in response to the said letter of 27th December 2022, the office of the Chief Registrar in a letter dated 9th January 2023 stated that “There is no Revenue Receipt Number on the said document, there is no Court Seal on the said document and the name of the Commissioner for Oath did not appear on the said document.
“Therefore, the affected document was never sworn to before the court.”
The Petitioners closed their case on July 5, and it was adjourned to Friday, (today), for the respondents to open their defence.
When the matter came up, counsel to INEC, Ishiaka Dikko, SAN, told the court that he was not yet prepared to open his defence.
The counsel apologized to the tribunal for not filing his scheduled list of witnesses and documents he seeks to tender, 24-hours to the date of hearing as required by law.
Also, Counsel to Governor Alia, S.I Ameh, SAN, Counsel to Sam Odeh, Mamman Mike Osuman, SAN, and that of the APC, Mathew Burkaa, SAN, all aligned themselves with the application for an adjournment.
INEC counsel, Dikko told the court that he was served a certificate of compliance by the petitioners this morning and needs to look at it.
To this, he asked the court for an adjournment to tomorrow, Saturday, July 15th, 2023, and said he was ready to bear the consequences of the adjournment sought.
Despite objections by the PDP and Uba’s counsel, the Chairman of the panel, Justice Ibrahim Mohammed who ruled on the application, granted the adjournment.
He adjourned the matter to Saturday for INEC, Alia, Odeh and APC to call their witnesses.