Posted by Pamela Eboh, Awka | 24 May 2014 | 3,897 times
The three main gladiators in the Anambra governorship tussle – Governor Willie Obiano, Senator Chris Ngige and Comrade Tony Nwoye – are now awaiting the pronouncement of the state election petition tribunal following the conclusion of hearing and addresses by all the parties.
The tribunal headed by Hon. Justice Ishaq Bello wrapped up hearing yesterday, with counsel to Governor Obiano, Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN; Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Adegboyega Awomolo; and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Patrick Ikwueto, asking the tribunal to dismiss the respective petitions filed by Ngige of All Progressives Congress (APC) and Nwoye of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). They argued that the petitions not only lacked merit and that the petitioners could not prove their points.
While urging the tribunal to dismiss the entire petitions filed by Ngige and Nwoye, Dr. Ikpeazu, SAN, told the panel that the petitioners did not discharge the evidential burden placed on them and could neither substantiate their allegations, hence they did not prove their case.
Ikpeazu submitted that the pleadings of the petitioners that the third respondent (Obiano) used a forged document could not hold just because the petitioner said so, insisting that INEC in exercise of its duties confirmed the authenticity of the voter’s card used by the respondent.
According to Dr Ikpeazu, “An INEC document issued by INEC and confirmed as authentic cannot by any stretch of imagination be considered forged because the petitioners said so.”
The third respondent’s counsel further argued that the petitioners having conceded that there was transfer from Lagos and that it was the INEC certified voter card that was used by the respondent in the election, the claim that the respondent is still a registered voter in Lagos is not tenable because it was resolved by Section 13 of the Electoral Act which specifies how a person is issued with a new voter card, assigned to a polling unit, does retrieval of old voter’s card as well as sends new card through the Electoral Officer who issues the new card to the applicant. These, Ikpeazu buttressed, were duly complied with by the respondent.
The senior learned counsel pointed out that having been unable to produce a register now which the petitioners claim still exists other than the copy given before the elections in November 2013, it is the job of the Electoral Officer to delete names of those whose application for transfer has been duly processed.
On his part, counsel to APGA, Patrick Ikwueto, SAN, urged the tribunal to dismiss the entire petitions filed by Ngige, Nwoye, and PDP for lack of merit since the petitioners did not prove any of the allegations raised in their pleadings. Ikwueto insisted that “the allegation of non-compliance made by Nwoye as the petitioner did not substantially affect the outcome of the elections.”
Counsel to INEC, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, added that the petitioners did not offer any evidence of non-compliance to enable the tribunal to nullify the election. INEC argued that the petition was one filled with sentiments and emotions. “The law cannot be expanded by INEC,” he said.
During his submissions after adopting his written address, Senator Ngige’s counsel, Emeka Ngige (SAN), admitted that the suit filed by his client has suffered deficiency as “the only person to explain the issue of forged certificate is INEC itself.” He lamented that the person or agency to defend issue of disqualification of the 3rd respondent on the basis of the forged document is the commission, but when it got to this point, INEC absconded.
Similarly, counsel to PDP, A. O Ajana, argued that all grounds canvassed by the parties were not on point of law, and that an infringement of an electoral act is enough to nullify the election, contrary to argument of Ikpeazu and the INEC lawyer that non-compliance must substantially affect the outcome of the election for it to qualify for the call for nullification.
Tribunal Chairman, Justice Ishaq Bello, said that they would communicate all the parties when the judgment is ready on or before June 19, 2014, having started hearing on Monday, December 20, 2013. The set timeline is in compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act as amended which set 180 days period for hearing and determination of all election tribunal cases.
Justice Bello commended the counsel for the orderly manner they conducted themselves and for being united throughout the proceedings, urging them to keep the flag flying.
He advised that everyone should learn to treat everybody fairly as no one knows what tomorrow may bring.
“May the Lord give me wisdom in all my submissions and I pray my leadership be placed with wisdom and to treat people fairly. I always have this fear at the back of my mind, that one day those that I entreated may be placed ahead of me and then the question is, what will be the fate of my children? If all human beings can think in that direction, then the world will be a better place,” Justice Bello said.
On his part, Justice John Viko said that one thing he noticed from the entire proceedings was that all the witnesses that came to testify spoke in English. “It’s a kudos to you people and I am impressed. If it is in my state, Nasarawa, you won’t find that; you must find an interpreter,” he said.
The third member of the panel, Justice Akintola, on his part, said that he was smitten by the uniqueness of the people and the opportunity he had to meet his students and classmate after more than 30 years.
He prayed that the harmony they experienced in the discharge of their duties also characterise their exit.
•Photo shows Governor Obiano.
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