From Ahmad Ibrahim, Lokoja
A Kogi State High Court sitting in Lokoja yesterday adjourned the case seeking to disqualify the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Musa Wada from contesting the November 16 governorship election to the 27th of this month for defense.
Abubakar Idris, the son of the former governor of the state had dragged Wada who is his brother in-law to court on the ground that he was not properly elected at the party’s primary as the standard bearer of the PDP, and therefore urged the court to disqualify him and declare him (Abubakar) as the winner of the shadow election.
The court had adjourned the case last Friday to yesterday, wherein all the witnesses of the claimant testified and were cross examined by the counsel to the second defendant.
When the case however came up for defence, counsel to the first defendant (PDP), Kola Olowookere told the court that the former counsel handling the case was indisposed, and has therefore handed over the matter to him.
He therefore pleaded for more time so as to obtain record of the matter from the registry of the court with a view to studying it.
He also disclosed that the case file was handed over to him less than 24 hours before the court session yesterday, and that he needed time to study the file whether to continue with the matter as at the staged it reached or to modify it by calling more witnesses.
Olowookere subsequently requested the court to adjourn the case for five weeks so that he would be able to study the case properly and continue (if necessary) at the stage it has reached.
He stressed that in the interest of justice and fair hearing, all parties needed to be given enough time by the trial judge to “ hear all the hearable and see all the seeable”, in the matter.
But counsel to Abubakar Idris, Rowland Otaru (SAN) vehemently objected to the oral application by the counsel to the PDP for adjournment, saying the counsel to the first defendant (PDP) does not need any extra time to study a case which has reached a critical stage of defence.
He further submitted that the court must be mindful of the fact that the issue at contention which is the governorship election is just 11 days away, and therefore of public interest.
He said the defendant was only using a delaying tactic to prolong the case and reminded the trial judge that he promised to give the case an expeditious hearing.
The counsel to the claimant therefore urged the court not to grant the application of the counsel to the first defendant.
Counsel to the second defendant (Wada) Prof Joas Amupitan – SAN, while supporting the first defence counsel for adjournment, told the judge not to allow anybody to stampede the court in arriving at a decision that would not be fair to all the parties.
According to him, the principle of justice and fair hearing is a tripod issue that affects not only the claimant but both the defendant and even the court.
He said since the case was a pre election matter the court is constitutionally allowed to adjudicate on it within 180 days and that the court still has many days at its side and should therefore not allowed it to be rushed in a way that would lead to miscarriage of justice.
After hearing all the parties, the trial judge, Justice Richard Olorunfemi in his ruling, said nobody can pressurize or stampede him to do anything outside the law, saying he has read in social media how some insinuations were made against him and that he remains undaunted because he has made a covenant with God not to take bribe from anyone.
According to him” none of you can buy me over, whether it is APC or PDP or anybody. I have made a covenant with my God precisely on May 18, 1999 that if I upturn justice for any monetary gain or favour, that God should remove me from where I am because my being a judge is by His Mercy”.
While subsequently adjourning the matter to the 27th of this month for defence, the trial judge averred that the court must not be made to embark on ‘neck breaking speed’ when there is still much time to hear all sides of the case.
He added that for the principle of fair hearing and justice to be given to all parties, no one should be deprived from being adequately heard.