CAN AN ELECTION TRIBUNAL MODIFY ITS SCHEDULING REPORT FOR GUIDING PROCEEDINGS?

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CASE TITLE: ABDULFATAI v. MULIKAT & ORS (2019) LPELR-48460(CA)

JUDGMENT DATE: 2ND SEPTEMBER, 2019

PRACTICE AREA: ELECTORAL PETITION.

LEAD JUDGMENT: NONYEREM OKORONKWO, J.C.A.

SUMMARY OF JUDGMENT:

INTRODUCTION

This appeal borders on Electoral Petition.

FACTS

This is an appeal against the decision of the National and State House of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal of Oyo State holden at Ibadan. At the Election Petition Tribunal in Petition No. EPT/OY/SEN/09/2019 Abdulfatai v. Mulikat & Ors, the Tribunal at a pre-hearing session made a scheduling order on the 18th May 2019 as follows:

“Trial dates are agreed by counsel and Tribunal as follows:
(1) PETITIONER: 7th and 8th June 2019 4.00 pm-6.00 pm.

(2) 1st RESPONDENT: 10th and 11th June, 2019 4.00pm- 6.00pm.

(3) 3rd RESPONDENT: 4.00pm 21st June and 9.00am 22nd June 2019.”

When on 7th June 2019 the Respondents being Petitioners could not proceed with the hearing because 4th Respondent Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) could not avail the Petitioners the documents required the tribunal made another scheduling order as follows:

​”This case was originally for hearing to commence today 7/6/19 and to continue tomorrow 8/6/19 and then 10/6/19. Due to INEC request for more time to produce the subpoenaed documents and by consent this petition is now adjourned for trial to:
(1) 4pm-6pm 21-6-19

(2) 9am-11am 22-6-19

(3) 9am-1.30pm 26-6-19

(4) 2.30pm-4pm on 15th and 16 July 2019 the earlier dates are now vacated.”

Eventually, on the 21st June 2019 the Respondents opened their case by calling their PW1, who principally came to tender documents. In line with the scheduling order, the matter was adjourned till 22nd June 2019 for the Respondents to continue with their case. On that day the same PW1 continued with the tendering of the documents which he concluded and was subsequently discharged by the Tribunal. The matter was then adjourned till 15th July 2019 at 11.00 am. On the said date when the Respondents sought to continue with the calling of additional evidence, Appellant’s lead counsel objected on the ground that by the scheduling order made by Tribunal the Respondents were only entitled to two days for the presentation of their case and having utilized same on the 21st and 22nd June, 2019 they were barred from continuing on the 15th of July, as that will run contrary to the Order of the Court dated 18th May 2019 allocating two days and timeline to them. Arguments were taken from all parties, subsequent upon which the Tribunal ruled, amongst others, that the order of 18th May 2019 had been altered by the orders of 7th June 2019 and 22nd June 2019.

Dissatisfied with this ruling, the Appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal.

ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION

The Court determined the appeal on this sole issue couched as follows:

“Whether the Tribunal by its order made on the 7th day of June 2019 and 22nd day of June 2019 has not modified its earlier order made on the 18th day of May 2019 fixing the 7th and 8th day of June 2019, 4:00 pm-6:00 pm as trial dates for the Petitioners.”

DECISION/HELD

On the whole, the Court found no merit in the appeal and accordingly dismissed it.

RATIOS:

  • ELECTION PETITION- ELECTION PETITION TRIBUNAL: Whether an election petition tribunal has the discretion to modify the scheduling report it issued for the guidance of the subsequent course of proceedings after a pre-hearing session.
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lawpavilion • September 17, 2019


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