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Keffi East Assembly: Supporters allege gang-up as tribunal stands down proceedings for 2 hours

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Ali Abare, Lafia

Supporters of the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate for Keffi West state Assembly seat in the recently-concluded elections, in Nasarawa State, have raised fears of alleged gang-up against their candidate, Engr. Mohammed Wada.

This followed the stand down of proceedings by the chairman of the Nasarawa State House of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal, Justice David Igoh, to wait for the arrival of the lead counsel to the first and second Respondents, on Thursday.

Engr. Wada had gone to the election tribunal to challenge the declaration of Abdulaziz Sule, first Respondent, of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) which second Respondent, as winner of the March 9 state Assembly election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the third Respondent.

On its resumed sitting, on Thursday, the tribunal judge stood down proceedings for two hours while awaiting the arrival of the lead counsel to the first and second respondents, which further fueled fears of the continued gang-up against their candidate.

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Bala Audu Mohammed, who traveled all the way from Keffi to monitor proceedings at the tribunal sitting, in Lafia, expressed fears that there was a sustained gang-up against Engr. Wada right from the constituency and this is being reinforced at the tribunal.

“Why would the judge stand down proceedings just to wait for the arrival of the lead counsel, a Senior Advocate, when other counsels are on seat?

“Not only that, you can see array of persons that are showing interest in the petition, even appointed officials of the ruling APC who are in court to support the SDP candidate,” Mohammed stated.

Speaking on the matter, lead counsel to the Petitioner, Dr. Mubarak Abikilukun, explained that the lead counsel to the first and second Respondents pleaded for the proceedings to be stepped down.

“The second respondent this afternoon filed their replies to the petition out of time, outside of the mandatory 21 days. They however filed for the enlargement of time within which they can file their reply,” Abikilukun said.

He added that he has also filed a counter affidavit against same following which the tribunal adopted his argument, with the judge adjourning ruling in favour of the counter affidavit to May 27.

Abikilukun expressed hope that his application would scale through which, he believed, would totally bar the second Respondent from making representation in the petition.

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Also commenting, Barr. Usman Mohammed Elegu, APC Legal Adviser in the state, allayed the fears of the party’s supporters, stressing that there is nothing wrong with the tribunal stepping down proceedings.

“We are still on elementary proceedings, still settling issues of notice of preliminary objections challenging the jurisdiction. It’s a normal proceeding. If the court has the time, there is nothing wrong with that,” Elegu explained.

The APC candidate for the Keffi East seat had gone to the election tribunal to challenge the election of the SDP candidate in the recently concluded general election on the premise that Abdulaziz Sule was not duly elected by the majority of legal votes cast.

Engr. Wada is equally alleged that the SDP candidate election was invalid by reasons of substantial non compliance with the electoral act and guidelines.