Posted by Charles lwuoha, Enugu | 12 July 2019 | 498 times
The National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal continued its sitting in Enugu on Thursday, with the petitioner raising concern over the quorum of the tribunal members.
News Express learnt that the tribunal had resumed hearing in the election petition case involving Hon. Vin Martins Ilo of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Toby Okechukwu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Shortly after appearances were announced, lawyer to the petitioner, Mr. Patrick Luke expressed concern over the absence of one of the members of the tribunal, Hon. Justice S. S. Ogunsoya.
Ilo is before the tribunal, challenging the declaration of Okechukwu, a three-time lawmaker, as the winner of the Awgu/Oji River/Aninri Federal Constituency election.
Already, three witnesses have appeared before the three-man tribunal and testified on behalf of the petitioner.
However, at the resumed hearing, Ilo’s lawyer said he was not comfortable with the composition of the tribunal.
Only the chairman of the tribunal, Hon. Justice H. H. Kerang, and one other member, Hon. Justice Yusuf Isa, were in court. Ogunsoya was also absent during the tribunal’s sitting the previous day.
Apparently concerned over the recent Supreme Court judgment on the Osun governorship election, Luke said, “We are afraid to proceed looking at the composition of the tribunal. So, we will like the Tribunal to clarify us.”
But in response, the chairman of the tribunal, Justice H. H Kerang, who said he already addressed the matter the previous day, said there was no cause for alarm.
While referring the lawyer to Section 9, Sub Section 4 of the Constitution, Kerang said “the quorum of this tribunal is intact as far as we are concerned. We are assuring you that in the absence of any natural unavoidable incident, we will not allow her (the absentee) judge to deliver the judgment.”
He maintained that the quorum remained two, explaining that issues would only arise if Ogunsoya would be the one to deliver the judgment.
The hearing proceeded thereafter with testimony of the PW4, Evang. Dr. Walter Madu, who told the tribunal that he served as the APC collation agent for Oji River Local Government during the exercise.
Madu, led in evidence by the petitioner’s lead counsel, Luke told the tribunal that he voted at his Obigwe Polling Unit, Isikwe Achi around 8.30 a.m. and left the place at about 9.30 a.m.
In his written statement, which was admitted as evidence, he had told the tribunal that people were sharing money, food, and that INEC staff was standing in the cubicle helping people to vote.
However, under cross examination by the counsel to the 1st respondent, Dr. Chukwu Onyekwuruje, he said he was not aware that those allegations were not contained in the petition his party filed before the Tribunal.
When asked to provide details on his claims that there were alterations of votes, he said: “I can’t. I don’t know the figure before and after the inflation off-hand. I submitted the result to my party; I am not living with it.”
He equally said he was ignorant of the number of wards in his local government area.
Another witness, Chief Francis Okolie, the PW5 also testified, telling the tribunal that he served as the APC collation agent for Mgbidi Mmaku Ward, in Awgu Local Government Area.
However, the INEC list of party agents for the Awgu local government, which was admitted as exhibit by the tribunal showed one Orji Okechukwu, listed as No. 132 as the APC agent, instead of Okolie.
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