The national headquarters of the Court of Appeal has stated some reasons that necessitated the relocation of the Osun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal from Osogbo, the state's capital, to Abuja.
The reshuffled three-man panel was moved to FCT High Court at No 24, Apo, Abuja on Saturday following the directives of president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa.
In an interview with PREMIUM TIMES, the spokesperson of the Court of Appeal, Sa'adatu Musa, said the action of the president was in line with the Constitution.
"It is constitutional. The president has the power to constitute a panel and to use that same discretion if she feels so, (for safety and for peace)."
In response to the question why the panel was moved, she said; "If there's a flash point or there would be trouble or insecurity of the judges, will you want to expose your judges, if you are the one?".
"Because of this, once in a while (the president exercises this power) and for peace to reign. (To ensure that there will) be no interference and so as to maintain peace and order, amidst tensed politics."
Citing previous cases, the spokesperson added that it happened in Imo state.
"You could remember in 2016 when she (The president) relocated some tribunals back to Abuja. (In) Port Harcourt for example, during the Wike and Amaechi issue, she moved them back to Abuja so that they can stay in a peaceful environment. You could remember in Ekiti, where a judge was slapped," she told PREMIUM TIMES.
When asked if the sudden relocation will not be seen as a political move by the opposition party, Mrs Musa stated that this will not be the first time the court will be accused of an attempt to tamper with justice.
"They have always thought otherwise. During the PDP time, APC were accusing her Lordship that (she) is PDP. Now it is APC time and PDP members are accusing that she (the President) is a member of APC.
"Human beings cannot please human beings, but for the sake of democracy, she is a very humane leader and a thoughtful person. She thinks beyond where we do. She supports democracy and for democracy to thrive, it has to be in a peaceful atmosphere. We can't endanger the lives of our judges.
"Everything is done in an open court. It is just that we are politically impatient and not seeing reasons why she took that step. She swore to an oath, between herself and her God. So, what will she gain at this time to cause chaos?" She asked.
PDP calls for probe of tribunal relocation
However, the People's Democratic Party, in a press statement signed by the state chairman, Soji Adagunodo, on Sunday, asked the National Judicial Council to probe the 'sudden' relocation of the sitting of the tribunal to the Federal Capital, Abuja.
According to the party chieftain, the party described the relocation of the sitting of the Osun Governorship Election Tribunal to Abuja as 'another sign that there is a desperate and evil plan by some forces to implement a pre-written script on the proceedings and outcome of its petition before the tribunal.'
"The party said though it was not shocked by the relocation of the sitting of the tribunal away from Osogbo, the state capital, in view of the several boastings of prominent APC leaders to that effect in the last few weeks, it is very disappointed that a very important institution like the Judiciary would allow itself to be cheaply manipulated by unscrupulous elements in the political space."
"We believe that the decision to relocate the Tribunal sitting to Abuja was also without any justifiable reason because there had been no reports on any security breach neither had there been any other cogent factor that could have necessitated the action."
The party said it was very probable that those who took the decision without consultation with counsels of the petitioners did so partly to prevent the good people of Osun State from observing the proceedings of the tribunal and also to make it easier for the federal authorities to influence its outcome.
We want to remind Honourable members of the tribunal of the dictum of the eminent jurist, Niki Tobi, that "the true test of a fair hearing is the impression of a reasonable person who was present at the trial, whether from his observation, justice has been done".
Mr Soji further reiterated that apart from the Court of public opinion which the conduct of the tribunal will be subjected to, there is also a burden on the tribunal members to justify the expectations of God from those who hold such sacred offices and who are called upon to do justice without fear or favour.
"On our part as a party, we will continue to invite the attention of the National Judicial Council, Leaders of thought and the international community to the happenings in Osun State and state what these portend for the 2019 general elections in Nigeria and the stability of the country as a whole."
"We are hopeful that the concerned persons and authorities will act speedily on this matter and restore the hope of the common man in Osun State in the judicial process as an aftermath of the last governorship election."
APC says movement of tribunal is legal
Meanwhile, the APC publicity secretary, Osun State, Kunle Oyatomi, in his reaction to the latest development, made it known that his party has no objection to the relocation of the state's Gubernatorial Election Petition Tribunal to Abuja.
"It is a legal process permitted by the law of Nigeria. We support the movement, so long it dispenses justice fairly and without favour," he stated in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday.
"We like to point out to the PDP and its candidate, Sen. Ademola Adeleke that by the fact on the ground of the two elections, and the official and legitimate pronouncement of the results of those elections by INEC, the mandate of the people of Osun remains that of Alhaji Isiaka Adegboyega Oyetola and not for Nurudeen Ademola Adeleke; not as the PDP is claiming," he defended.
It should be recalled that this newspaper reported that the PDP candidate in the September 22 and 27 elections, Ademola Adeleke, filed a petition at the Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Osogbo to challenge the victory of the governor-elect, Gboyega Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Mr Adeleke, who claimed he polled the highest number of votes in the election, has asked the tribunal to cancel the victory of Mr Oyetola and declare him the winner of the election.