The Plateau chapter of the PDP has accused the Local Government Election Tribunal of delaying its sitting so as to frustrate petitioners seeking to recover “stolen’’ mandates.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), reports that the tribunal, which was inaugurated by the Plateau Chief Judge, Justice Yakubu Gyang, on Thursday, Nov. 23, has yet to start sitting.
The panel is expected to determine 77 petitions arising from the Oct. 10 local government elections.
Eight of the petitions were filed by chairmanship candidates, while 69 petitions are over councillorship seats.
NAN also reports that the panel has 40 days, out of the mandatory 90 days, within which to resolve the petitions arising from the polls whose results were announced on Oct. 11.
Mr Amos Gombi, the PDP Deputy Chairman, who expressed dismay over the delay, in an interview with newsmen on Tuesday in Jos, alleged that it was “a deliberate ploy to deny justice to the aggrieved petitioners’’.
“The tribunal has 90 days within which to resolve petitions arising from the elections. At the end of the 90 days, petitions not resolved will be left out because of this technical reason. Already, 50 days are gone.
“At the PDP, we are anxious and afraid that many petitions will not be heard because the time is limited. We are all agitated. Our lawyers are ready. The petitioners are ready, but the tribunal is silent,’’ he said.
He said that the PDP filed the petitions within the 21 days stipulated by the electoral act, but was surprised that the tribunal had not even commenced pre-trial sessions.
Gombi accused the tribunal of “colluding with enemies of democracy’’ to frustrate the cause of justice, and appealed to the chief judge to order the panel to commence sitting immediately.
Meanwhile, the PDP has written to the Chairman of the tribunal to request for two additional panels to ensure expeditious disposition of the petitions in view of the limited time available for hearing of the 77 petitions.
Mr Binchen Jantur, the State Legal Adviser, told NAN that the party had earlier written to the chief judge, who, in turn, suggested that the letter be re-directed to the tribunal chairman.
“We first wrote to the Chief Judge to ask for additional panels, but he suggested that only the chairman had the power to complain about the need for more panels, in view of the number of petitions.
“So, we have done the needful; we have told the chairman that there was the need for two more panels and we are hopeful that he will see the need to ask the chief judge to heed to our demand,’’ he said.
NAN reports that the APC swept the polls in the 13 local governments the elections were conducted.
Gov Simon Lalong had excluded four local governments – Jos North, Jos South, Riyom and Barkin-Ladi – citing security reasons.
Efforts to speak with the chairman of the tribunal proved abortive, but a source at the office said that the tribunal would soon begin sitting.
“When petitioners file their cases, we usually send their claims to the respondents who are expected to send in their responses. Some responses have been received while others are still being awaited,” the source told NAN, pleading anonymity.