Blessing Okorite, Port Harcourt
The National and State Assembly Election Tribunal sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State has dismissed the Petition filed by the senatorial candidate of the Social Democratic Party SDP for Rivers West Senatorial District Dighobu Obaghama, against the victory of Senator Betty Appiafy of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, over failure of his lawyer to participate in the pretrial hearing process in the matter.
The three man panel, led by Justice F. K Kiagama held that the petitioner is not interested in participating in the pretrial hearing process by taking three adjournments during the process.
Justice Kiagama held that the three times adjournment shows the unseriousness and an attempt to delay the matter by the petitioner.
The court however, awarded a cost of Four Hundred Thousand Naira each to the first (Appiafy) and second respondents (PDP) and Two Hundred Thousand Naira (INEC) to the third respondents.
The court in the said petition upheld the victory of Senator Betty Appiafy.
Speaking with newsmen immediately after the ruling, Counsel for Senator Betty Appiafy, I. A. Adenipe, lauded the court for the ruling, adding that the penalty for continued seeking for adjournment is loss of the petition.
Hr said: “The petition was dismissed for failure of the petitioner to comply with paragraph 18 (11) of the rules of the tribunal. The petitioner had in three times seek for adjournment of the petition and that prompted the dismissal of the said petition by the candidate of SDP against Senator Betty Appiafy”.
On his part, counsel for SDP, Somina Elekima said the Tribunal was right in its decision.
Elekima who is also SDP Acting State Legal Adviser said ” He (Obaghama) has gone to court without the authorisation or consent of the party, so the party has approached the court for his name to be struck out. He has resisted that approach which took sometime and finally it was ruled today and struck out.
“Upon the struck out, the matter was ripe for prehearing, unfortunately his counsel were not ready for prehearing after asking for adjournment for two times earlier and by the rules of the tribunal, the court had no option but to struch put the petition.”
On his part, Collins Dike lawyer to SDP Candidate Obaghama said the Tribunal did not hear his application on merit, promising his client will review the tribunals decision.