The National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal, sitting in Makurdi in Benue State, has dismissed the motion filed by Chief Steven Lawani of the All Progressives Congress (APC), seeking to amend his petition challenging the election of Comrade Abba Moro of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Lawani, who is APC candidate in the recently conducted Benue South senatorial district election, is questioning the return of PDP’s Moro as the winner of the polls through his lead counsel Sunday Okpale in a fresh move, urging the tribunal to grant his client leave to amend his petition.
But, a member of the tribunal, Justice C M Ken-Eze, said the court could not allow the motion to succeed because new matters were introduced in the amendment sought by the petitioner.
The application, which was dated May 8, 2019 and filed on May 10, 2019 as well as supported by two affidavits, sought to amend Lawani’s petition, list of documents to be relied on and deemed same as properly filed and served.
Ruling, however, on the motion which attracted heated arguments from Moro’s lead counsel, E C Ikonne and Lawani’s counsel, Okpale, the tribunal held that after a careful look into the submissions of both counsels, it found it difficult to allow the motion because the 21 days allowed for the filing of the petition had elapsed.
Justice Ken-Eze, said that the amendment would have been allowed if it was about typographical errors or other minor issues in the petition, stressing that the petitioner cannot come before the tribunal to make substantial amendment to his petition to the extent of including new pleadings and reliefs.
The tribunal therefore, agreed with the submissions of Moro’s counsel that it is manifest that the petitioner’s proposed amendment will introduce substantial issues to the petition and therefore, held that the petitioner’s proposed amendment amount to substantial departure from the petition, noting that in the original petition, four reliefs were sought while in the proposed amendment, five new reliefs were added.
“The petitioner’s application is a total departure from the original petition and cannot be accommodated by the tribunal. This is especially because issues have already been joined. The application is incompetent for introducing new things and is contrary to the provision of the Electoral Act and is hereby dismissed,” Justice Ken-Eze held.
The matter has been adjourned to May 24, 2019 for pre-hearing.
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