The Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, on Friday, resumed pre-hearing in a suit brought before it by Senator Godswill Akpabio of the All Progressives Congress (APC) challenging the declaration of Engr. Chris Ekpenyong of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Ikot Ekpene Senatorial election.
The tribunal upheld the prayer of S. I. Ameh, SAN, Lead Counsel to Senator Akpabio, that ruling be deferred on respective applications till final addresses.
Counsels to Engr. Ekpenyong and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Kanu Agabi, SAN, and Solomon Umoh, SAN, respectively, had argued for ruling not to be deferred.
They submitted that the petitioners’ prayer for the election of Engr. Ekpenyong to be nullified was based on inconsistent grounds and reliefs sought in Akpabio’s petition.
Concurring Agabi’s prayer that the petition be struck out, counsels to PDP, Solomon Umoh, SAN, and INEC, Barr. Anietie Inyang described same as incongruous and called for the dismissal of the petition.
Reacting to the submissions, Senator Akpabio’s counsel, S. I. Ameh, SAN, said the respondents’ arguments amounted to an “unwarranted attack on the petition, unsupported either by fact or law.”
He said the Electoral Act supports the doctrine of mutual exclusivity which allows the combination of grounds as filed by the petitioner. He referenced a precedent, Adegihi and Nwaogu, to further buttress his point.
On Agabi’s claims that particulars were not filed to back up claims of non-compliance with the Electoral Act, Ameh argued that same were duly filed citing Paragraphs 42 to 49 of the petition.
He added that, “assuming the Petitioner’s grounds and prayers are vague, the respondents are under duty to apply under Paragraph 17 of the 1st Schedule of the Electoral Act for proper briefing.”
Mr. Ameh argued that the two grounds of the petition were valid because the Petitioner was not challenging the whole election but were restricted to the return of Engr. Ekpenyong. This, he said, was contrary to the position of the PDP candidate that the grounds were mutually exclusive.
Mr. Ameh said there was no merit in the application and as such should be dismissed.
The Chairman of the Tribunal noted that owing to the nature of the case which is bound by timelines, it would be in the interest of the parties to allow them proceed to the main subject of the case while the ruling on the preliminary objection will come as part of the final judgement of the Tribunal.
The three-man panel adjourned till Monday, May 13, 2019 for completion of pre-hearing.