Court Dismisses Election Petition Against Melaye

Sen. Dino Melaye
By Nuel Suji
The National and State Legislative Houses Election Tribunal in Kogi State has dismissed the petition of Senator Smart Adeyemi of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) against the election and return of Dino Melaye of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

 Adeyemi is challenging the election and return of Melaye as winner of the National Assembly election for Kogi West Senatorial District.

Justice Akon Ikpeme, Chairman of the three-member tribunal, however, dismissed the petition on Thursday in Lokoja in a ruling on a motion filed by Rickey Tarfa (SAN), Counsel to Melaye on the grounds that the petition was incompetent and abandoned.

Ikpeme said the petitioners ran foul of the Electoral Act in filing their reply to the first respondent’s response out of time, saying they were served on May 13 and could only file their reply on May 18, six days after.

On the submission by the petitioners’ counsel, Adekunle Otitoju, that the tribunal could resort to Federal Civil Procedure Rule to address the out-of-date filing, the tribunal chairman said they could only do that when there was a lacuna.

“We are bound by our records that this tribunal accepts that the petitioners were served on May 13, 2015 at 3.57 p.m. as confirmed by the court’s records and holds that the reply was filed on the sixth day and therefore, out of time.

“We hold that the petitioners’ reply is incompetent as it was filed out of time and is hereby struck out,” he said.

On whether the petitioners abandoned their petition for failing to apply for issuance of Form TF001 for pre-hearing session within the statutory seven-day time line, Ikpeme said the petitioner had up to May 19 to file the application.

She held that “the petitioners ought to have filed the application on May 19 and not May 20 and have, therefore, abandoned their petition.”

Ikpeme then said that the pursuit of other issues relating to the petition could only amount to ‘mere academic exercise’ and therefore dismissed the petition for incompetence and abandonment on the part of the petitioners.

It would be recalled that Tarfa, in the motion supported by a 13-paragraph affidavit, sought five reliefs, including an order of the tribunal to strike out the petitioners’ reply for being filed out of time.

The motion also sought an order dismissing the petition for petitioners’ failure and ruling that their actions robbed the tribunal of further hearing in the case.

Adeyemi had in the petition with Melaye, APC and INEC as first, second and third respondents sought five prayers, including nullification and withdrawal of Melaye’s Certificate of Return and declaring him (petitioner) winner of the March 28, 2015 election.

He based the petition on three grounds, including substantial non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).

Other grounds are that the first respondent is not duly elected by the majority of lawful votes cast and his non-qualification to contest the election at the time he did.