Benue Election Petitions Tribunal Members Scamper To Abuja Over Threat To Life


The political class in Benue State is still trying to recover from the shock it received as members of the elections petitions tribunal sitting in the state fled in fear. The tribunal had earlier suffered a setback last month when the first Chairman resigned her appointment after alleging threats to her life.
The Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Munir Ladan blew the threat issue open during a hearing in the case between Governor Suswam of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and Professor Daniel Saror of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), who is challenging Suswam’s election on the grounds of certificate forgery. Many had expected that the Governor would be required to show his educational certificates yesterday.
Justice Ladan said “we are facing security challenges, and have to go to Abuja to sort things out with the President of the Court of Appeal. We will put counsels on notice when this issue is cleared. Meanwhile, all preliminary objections will be heard on the adjourned date of 3rd August, 2011,”
Everyone at the sitting started suspecting that something was amiss when Justice N. Gume first prayed against “evil machination of men” before delivering a consolidated ruling to grant the 1st and 2nd respondents extension of time to regularise their replies to Saror’s petition.
After the proceedings, members of the Tribunal were escorted out of the court premises by a team of armed policemen from the Special Anti-Robbery Rapid Squad of the state police command.
Street Journal’s investigations revealed that Justice Daisy Okocha, who was first appointed as the Chairman of the Tribunal stayed in Hope Haven Hotel when she arrived in Makurdi for her duties. Meanings were however read to her stay in the hotel since it is owned by Mrs Regina Akume, wife of Senator George Akume, a former Benue State Governor and chieftain of the ACN. It was being said around Makurdi that the Tribunal’s Chairman might have been compromised.
The allegations of bias made Justice Okocha relocate to the Royal Choice Hotel, which is close to the Government House in the state capital.
Street Journal however found out that as she was about to enter her official car one morning, she discovered that its four tyres had been punctured by unknown persons within the hotel premises.
She also allegedly received several text messages threatening her. Seeing that she was being watched and could be in serious danger, she resigned her appointment on the 17th June.
Reacting to the action of the members of the Tribunal, Abubakar Tsav, a former Lagos State Commissioner of Police said “people who administer justice should not be cowards. They should say who and how they are been threatened. If they feel frightened by the large crowd of party supporters by both PDP and ACN at the tribunal, or if they do not have confidence in the Benue police, then they can request for police officers to be brought from other states. The President of the Court of Appeal cannot provide security for them. They have a constitutional responsibility to look into the matter, and Benue people are very eager that it is dispensed with,” Tsav said.
It will be recalled that the tribunal struck out a motion by Governor Suswam urging it to set aside it proceedings of June 29, 2011 brought by Prof. Steven Ugbah of the ACN, for pre-trial, alleging that it was incompetent.
Ruling on that application, Justice Ladan dismissed the motion for lacking in merit, noting that technicalities should not be used to defeat the end of justice.
Justice Ladan also stated that an exparte motion does not preclude election petition as he also observed that the application by the ACN candidate was supported by an affidavit and was also filed within time.

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