From Yakubu Mustapha, Minna
The Chairman of the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Minna, Justice Ibrahim Maikata has promised to ensure that the tribunal delivers judgment before Christmas in the petition filed by David Umaru of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
The petition is challenging the declaration of Dr. Nuhu Zagbai of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner of the Niger East Senatorial bye-election conducted in August and September this year by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The Chairman stated this at the weekend at the end of the pre-trial conference on the petition adding that he would be ready to sit on Saturdays to ensure accelerated hearing on the petition and fixed Thursday November 20, 2014 for the petitioners to open their case.
Justice Maikada however gave the petitioners 7 days to prepare and present their case and call witnesses before the tribunal while each of the three respondents has four days to respond making a total of 12 days.
He allocated 10 to 15 minutes for examination and cross examination of witnesses and appealed to all parties to avoid unnecessary applications that could delay the speeding determination of the petition
Counsel to the petitioners, Barrister Chris Osuagwu at the end of the pre-trial conference formulated four issues for the determination of the tribunal relying on 73 witnesses and praying the tribunal to nullify the declaration of the PDP candidate Dr Zagbai as winner of the bye-election.
The APC candidate is also praying the tribunal to declare him winner of the bye-election having polled the majority of lawful votes cast.
The issues raised for the determination of the tribunal on the petition included whether the bye-election was not affected by substantial non-compliance to the provisions of the 1999 constitution as amended, the Electoral Act 2010 as amended and the manual for election 2014.