The Court of Appeal in Abuja on Friday set aside the decision of the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal in Kogi State, which struck out the petition of Senator Smart Adeyemi.
Adeyemi of the People’s Democratic Party had challenged the election of Senator Dino Melaye of the All Progressives Congress, alleging electoral irregularities and malpractices.
Justice Muhammed Adume held that the tribunal was wrong in striking out Adeyemi’s petition on the grounds of technicalities, instead of substantial justice.
The appellate court, therefore, remitted the case to the tribunal for “trial on merit”.
The court further held that the decision of the tribunal that Adeyemi did not file his petition within the time frame allowed by law was wrong and nullified it forthwith.
Adume said the respondents did not provide sufficient evidence before the tribunal that the petition was filed late.
It will be recalled that the tribunal had dismissed the petition of Adeyemi, a one-time National President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, for late filing.
The tribunal Chairman, Justice Akon Ikpeme, had in the ruling of June 18, held that the Kogi West ex-senator’s case was “incurably defective”.
The court held, “From the available record, the petitioner was reportedly served with the response of the defendant within 26 minutes that the response was filed at the registry of the tribunal, but for all intent and purposes, it is practically impossible for the petitioner to have been served with the response within 26 minutes more so, when the contact address of the petitioner is outside the tribunal premises in Lokoja.
“It is against natural sequence of human events for a court process to have been served on recipient in just 26 minutes when the recipient is not within the court premises.
“Findings of the tribunal that the service was effected within 26 minutes was not supported with affidavit by the tribunal bailiff. The tribunal was wrong in its hasty conclusion and in striking out the petition on technicality.
“A tribunal has the duty to verify and evaluate evidence before it in order to arrive at a just conclusion. The tribunal was wrong in stopping the train while on its way to justice.”