President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, has appointed Justice O.A. Adeniyi as the Chairman of the Cross River State National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal currently sitting in Calabar, the state capital.
Adeniyi, a member of the three-man panel, was elavated to head the tribunal after a petition was lodged with the Appeal Court against the erstwhile chairman, Justice C. Awubra.
The petition filed by Mr Paul Erokoro, counsel to some of the respondents at the tribunal, said that Awubra’s appointment as chairman was unconnstitutional.
Erokoro had, in his application, also challenged the jurisdiction of the tribunal and the competence of Awubra to head the panel.
According to him, Awubra, a Customary Court judge, is not qualified to head the tribunal as the constitution provides that its chairman must be a high court judge.
Before the tribunal’s sitting on Wednesday, all the lead counsels were briefed on the changes which reverted Awubra to an ordinary member of the tribunal and the elevation of Adeniyi.
In spite of the development, Erokoro asked the tribunal to start all cases afresh, arguing that proceedings under Awubra should be deemed null and void.
Other counsels, however, argued against the request, citing several cases to support their positions.
Professor Jacob Dada and Mr Essien Andrew argued that the tribunal could not start afresh as the three-man tribunal remained the same.
They said that the change was only administrative and that the sitting of the tribunal was time-bound.
They further argued that Erokoro’s application was incompetent and overtaken by events.
Adeniyi reserved judgment on Erokoro’s application and also said that the tribunal would take all the substantive matters before it to conclusion.
The chairman advised parties in the respective cases to adopt their final written addresses.
Adeniyi, who adjourned all the matters for judgment, ruled that parties would be communicated on the date set by the tribunal.
The chairman noted that the 180 days provided for in the Electoral Act for the tribunal to wind down would elapse by October 13.