Legal fireworks began on Thursday at the Edo State Election Petition Tribunal, at the pre-hearing of petitions filled by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in the September 28 gubernatorial election in the State, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, over the declaration of Governor Godwin Obaseki as winner of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
No fewer than 105 laywers, mostly Senior Advocates, were assembled by the Petitioners (PDP and Ize-Iyamu) and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Respondents (INEC, Governor Obaseki and the APC) for the petition.
At the pre-hearing sitting, Adebayo Adelodun (SAN), led 60 other lawyers for the Petitioners, Adeniyi Akintola and Ken Mozia led 35 other lawyers for the APC and Godwin Obaseki, while Oyenchi Ikpeazu, SAN, led six other lawyers for the 1st Respondent, INEC.
Mr. Adebayo Adelodun set the ball rolling when he told the three-man Tribunal, headed by Justice Ahmed Badamasi, that they were ready for the pre-hearing session.
Counsel to the 2nd and 3rd Respondents (Godwin Obaseki and APC respectively), Ken Mozia, SAN, and Adeniyi Akintola, SAN, however disagreed with Adelodun. They informed the Court that there were pending applications that were supposed to be heard before the pre-hearing.
Ken Mozia informed the Court that he filed two applications dated 29th and 30th November, seeking the termination of the petition filed by the Petitioners and the second one seeking that certain paragraphs of the answers to the reply of the Petitioners be struck out.
The PDP Counsel however contended that the Tribunal was already in the pre-hearing session and that Counsel should have filed all applications before the session, pointing out that it was possible for the Tribunal to take all applications while the pre-hearing session was ongoing.
He further informed that he had filed an application dated 29th November seeking to strike out certain paragraphs of the reply of the Defendants.
On his part, the Counsel to INEC, Mr. Okezia Ikpeazu, SAN, told the Tribunal that INEC was not aware that Thursday was the date set aside for pre-hearing and that the Commission did not receive any information to that effect.
Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Ahmed Badamasi, then adjourned till December 7, 2016, for hearing on the applications.
Badamasi ordered all parties to file their applications on or before December 3, 2016, and reply on or before December 5, 2016.
Counsel to Obaseki, Ken Mozia, who was joined by Counsel to the 3rd Respondent, Adeniyi Akintola, SAN, further alerted the Tribunal of an alleged breach by the Petitioners of the condition given by the Tribunal for the inspection of ballot papers used for the conduct of the governorship election.
Counsel to the Petitioners, Adelodun, replied that his clients have strictly adhered to the condition stipulated by the Tribunal for the scanning of the ballot papers including the presence of the tribunal secretary and five representatives of the parties during scanning.
He further added that the Respondents were out to frustrate the scanning process, asking the tribunal what the petitioners were supposed to do anytime the respondents failed to bring their representatives during the scanning process.
In its ruling, the Tribunal restated its position on the matter, adding that the scanning should go ahead in case any party refused to present representatives during the scanning process.