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Tribunal Strikes out Petition Against Mark for Being Statute Barred

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By Our Reporter

The National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal in Makurdi on Thursday struck out the petition filed by Mr Daniel Onjeh against Sen. David Mark election for being statute barred.

In her ruling, Justice Chinyere Anulude, who read the ruling, said that due to the sui generis nature of election matters, the day of the election shall not be excluded.

According to Anulude, from the date of the filing the petition, it is crystal clear that the petition is manifestly filed out of time by one day.

She pointed out that Section 285(5) of the 1999 Constitution was settled by the Supreme Court in Okechukwu vs INEC and the lower tribunal was bound by it.

The tribunal, therefore, held that the petition was defective and statute barred.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Mark of the Peoples Democratic Party as winner of the Benue South Senatorial rerun election with a margin of barely more than 12,000 votes.

Dissatisfied with the result, Onjeh of APC approached the tribunal, insisting that “the purported margin of win that led to the declaration of Mark as winner of the poll was far less than the number of cancelled and rejected votes, which were over 29,000 votes’’.

Onjeh said that evidence on the face of the Certified True Copy of result declaration sheets obtained from INEC showed observed irregularities and non-compliance with Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).

He, therefore, asked the tribunal to declare him the winner of the poll instead of Mark.

Joined in the petition were INEC and PDP.

Before the commencement of hearing, however, Mr Kenneth Ikonne, Counsel to Mark, filed an exparte motion asking the tribunal to strike out the petition.

Ikonne said that the petition was defective because the petitioner filed the petition out of time.

He argued that the petitioner ought to have filed within 21-days of the date of the declaration of results by INEC but failed to comply.

“The law provides that the date of the event should be included and not excluded from the happening of event,’’ Ikonne said.

He pointed out that the tribunal had no jurisdiction over an incompetent case, and urged the tribunal to grant his application by striking out the petition.

Counsel to PDP Chris Alechenu and Counsel to INEC Johnson Usman aligned themselves with the submission of Ikonne, and urged the tribunal to quash the petition.

However, Mr Tunji Oso, Counsel to Onjeh, asked the tribunal to discountenance the submissions of the respondents.

Oso argued that the law had expressly excluded the date of declaration from the 21 days the petitioner had to file his case.

He said the petitioner filed the case 21-days after the date of declaration which was still within time according to Section 285 of the 1999 Constitution.

In an interview, Oso said that the ruling was not just an injustice to only the petitioner but also to the spirit of the constitution.

He insisted that they would go on appeal.

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