By CrossRiverWatch admin
Justice O. A. Adeniyi has emerged as the new Chairman of the Cross River State National and State Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal, sitting in Calabar.
This followed last week’s application by the counsel for the Peoples Democratic Party respondents, Mr. Paul Erokoro, that the erstwhile chairman, Justice C. Awubra, was constitutionally not suitable to head the tribunal as a serving Customary Court Judge in Taraba State.
Erokoro had, in the application, said Awubra’s continued stay in that position violated the provisions of the constitution, which stipulates that the chairman of the tribunal must be a serving High Court Judge.
However, before Justice Adeniyi, assumed the position as chairman on Tuesday, all the lead counsel in the matters before the tribunal were called to a conference in the judge’s chambers, where they were informed of the administrative directive of the President of the Court of Appeal on the re-composition of the tribunal.
Despite the explanation, Erokoro sought to challenge the jurisdiction of the tribunal and the competence of the erstwhile composition.
He argued, “The tribunal is only deemed to have been duly constituted now under the chairmanship of Justice Adeniyi and should accordingly commence all matters afresh from a re-hearing section, as every other proceedings under Justice Awubra should be deemed null and void.”
But counsel for the Labor Party, the petitioner, Prof. Jacob Dada and Mr. Essien Andrew, insisted that Erokoro’s argument was not tenable considering the time it would take to start afresh and the fact that it was the same persons that remained as tribunal members.
Andrew said, “The tribunal cannot start afresh because it is the same three-man tribunal that remains in the panel except that the change is only administrative within the same persons in the tribunal and bearing the essence of time, the matter cannot be taken afresh.”
However, Justice Adeniyi in a short ruling, said the panel would reserve judgment on Erokoro’s application and proceed to conclude on all the other substantive matters before it.
Adeniyi said this was so in order to ensure that in the case of appeal, the appellate court would have to simultaneously look at the judgments on the question of jurisdiction and the judgment on merit of the substantive case.
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