Tribunal dismisses Lawani’s application to amend petition

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The National and State Houses of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Makurdi, the Benue State capital on Friday struck out an application brought by former Deputy Governor of the State Chief Stephen Lawani, seeking to amend his petition challenging the election of Comrade Sunday Okpare of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Lawani who is the candidate of the All All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Benue South Senatorial District in the last general elections is challenging the return of Moro (PDP) as the winner of the February 2019 Senatorial election for the district.

At the resumption of pre-hearing in the petition in Makurdi, the Benue State capital yesterday, Lawani’s counsel Sunday Okpare prayed the Tribunal to grant his client leave to amend his petition.

The application dated 8th May 2019 which was filed on 10th May 2019 and 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.

But counsel to Moro, Barr. Kenneth Ikonne and that of the PDP who were joined in the suit raised an objection to Lawani’s application to amend the petition arguing that amending the petition would have an adverse effect on their reply.

Ikonne who urged the tribunal to dismiss Lawani’s application further submitted that time allowed for the filing of the election petition was 21 days and since that time had elapsed, the petitioner cannot come before the Tribunal to make a substantial amendment to his petition to the extent of including new pleadings and reliefs.

Ruling on the application, a member of the tribunal, Hon Justice C. M. Ken-Eze, agreed with the submissions of Ikonne that the petitioner’s proposed amendment will introduce substantial issues to the petition.

She held that the petitioner’s proposed amendment amount to a substantial departure from the petition, noting that in the original petition, four reliefs were sought while in the proposed amendment, five new reliefs are added.

According to Justicw Ken-Eze, since time is of the essence, the petitioner may be allowed to make an amendment to the extent that it is meant to correct mistakes on the face of the petition and not substantial amendment of pleadings.

“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,” Hon Justice Ken-Eze ruled.
The matter was therefore adjourned for 24th May 2019 for pre-hearing.
Similarly, the Tribunal adjourned the petition brought by Philip Orshe of the PDP challenging the return of erstwhile Chairman of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Benue State Council Bem Mngutyo as a member representing Tarka State Constituency for 24th May 2019 for pre-hearing.

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