The Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State, which began sitting on Monday has been relocated to another venue, following complaints and cases of insecurity around the Ekiti State High Court in Ado- Ekiti by lawyers.
Through the venue to be used is unknown, strong indications have emerged that the tribunal’s sitting may be relocated to Abuja.
The relocation was sequel to the oral application by one of the lead lawyers to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate, Prof Olushola Eleka, Mr Adebayo Adelodun.
Adelodun (SAN), who cited cases of insecurity and threat to lives encountered in the hands of the crowd that massed at the court’s gate before the commencement of the sitting.
The request was supported by the lawyers to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Chief Charles Edosomwan (SAN) , that of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Akin Olujinmi (SAN) and the lawyer to the party’s candidate, Dr Kayode Fayemi.
The lawyers claimed that they were nearly mobbed by those suspected to be party goons on their way to the court in the morning, which constituted serious security threat to their lives and the course of justice and that the crowd were not discriminatory in their attacks.
The Tribunal, which rose for about an hour, later reconvened to deliver its ruling through its Chairman, Justice Suleiman Belgore.
Other members of the panel are Justices Aliyu Usman Baba and Ebiyerin Omukoro respectively.
In his ruling, Justice Belgore said: “Following the issue of insecurity raised by the lawyers that there was threat to human lives around the court.
He predicated this on his encounter with unruly crowd on his way to the court this morning and he said the venue should be relocated in view of this. And this view was not opposed by the respondents.
“Lawyers to the respondents expressed similar inclinations that the venue should be relocated to another city citing cases of insecurity to lives.
“We are critically mindful of the consequences of the applications made by the counsel to the petitioner, which was not opposed by the counsel to the respondents.
“We have rubbed minds together and came to the conclusion that this fear is real and apparent that the situation is becoming insecure and tense and we can’t trivialise such.
“We hereby grant the application because of the consequences the insecurity could have on this Tribunal and the new venue shall be communicated through our Secretary to all parties within 48 hours”, he said.
Early in the morning, there was heavy security beef up around Ado-Ekiti High Court , where the Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal was located, on Monday , as the 3-man panel of Tribunal judges set up to hear the petition trailing the outcome of the July 14 election began sitting.
The Ekiti State Police command deployed an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) and several police vans which were strategically positioned in front of the court to ward off hooligans and trouble makers.
Those entering the premises, including journalists and judicial officers were thoroughly frisked before being allowed entry.
The armoured tank, Patrol Vans and the personnel were strategically stationed while performing their duties.
The PDP candidate and outgoing Deputy Governor of Ekiti State, Prof Kolapo Olusola Eleka is challenging the declaration of Dr Kayode Fayemi of the All Progressives a Congress (APC) as the duly elected Governor of the state.
Eleka also described the governorship election as a sham, alleging that the election was rigged in favour of the APC
Fayemi polled a total of 197,459 to defeat Eleka , who garnered an aggregate of 178, 122 votes.
The Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Suleiman Belgore, in his inaugural speech, promised that the tribunal members would act truly as unbiased umpire and won’t betray the confidence reposed in them by the President of the Court of Appeal (PCA), Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa.
Belgore added that the Tribunal would comply strictly with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rule and the Practice Directive as issued by the President of the Court of Appeal.
He said the panel would not tolerate any act that could be inimical to smooth running of the Tribunal regarding the hearing and dispensation of judgement within 180 days stipulated by the Appeal Court.
“It would be recalled that on the 14th July, 2018, election was held into the office of the Governor of Ekiti State.
Following the declaration and return of Dr Fayemi of the APC as the winner, his co-contestant, Prof Olusola of the PDP, are challenging the outcome and declaration before this Tribunal.
“We cannot lose sight of the importance of our oath of office, the sacred duties we owe our conscience and the judiciary.
We therefore, wish to assure all parties counsel and indeed all and sundry that the field will not only be leveled but officiating shall be impartial , fair and strictly in accordance with the relevant provisions of our laws.
“Let me warn that the Tribunal will not condone acts inimical to smooth proceedings. We hereby appeal to the members of the Bar to show courtesy , diligence and due sense of professionalism in their appearances before us.
“We must all bear in mind at all times that section 285 of the constitution and Section 134(2) of the Electoral Act are clear that all petitions must be heard and judgements delivered within 180 days.
“So, we don’t have the luxury of time . We intend to be pedantic in our work while at the same time no red herring technicalities shall be entertained.
“To the security agencies, especially Department of State Security and police, we implore you to be fully alert and conscious of your operations .
You cannot afford to exhibit laxity or laziness or indeed any slight indifference to security challenges in the course of performing our duties”, he added.