Tribunal Update: Court Rules In Favour of Nsima Ekere; Adjourns Sitting To June 14

The Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal sitting at the Magistrate Court premises in Uyo has adjourned its sitting to June 14, 2019 for the conclusion of the pre-hearing session.

The tribunal, which is headed by Justice A. M. Yakubu is hearing petitions submitted by the All Progressives Congress, APC, and its gubernatorial candidate, Obong Nsima Ekere.

The petitioners want the tribunal to hold that Mr. Udom Emmanuel was not the winner of the 2019 governorship election as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

However, today being the second day into the pre-hearing session, the lead counsel to the petitioner, Mr. J. S. Okutepa, SAN, requested that the tribunal grant the petitioners leave for the amendment of clerical errors by replacing the word “and” with “or.”

Okutepa cited an authority permiting such amendment which will not affect the substance of the process.

Whereas, the respondents’ prayers were that no amendment can be made after which a petition has been filed within the 21 days from the date a winner of an election was declared winner as stipulated by law.

In his ruling, Justice Yakubu agreed with the petitioner’s counsel that the intention was not to mislead the respondents in preparing their defence, but rather, a clerical error. He however granted the petitioner’s prayers to amend the original petition filed before it.

The three-man panel also heard an application made by counsel to Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, that the name of the 4th respondent, Mike Igini be struck out.

Counsel to the petitioners, as well as those for the 1st respondent, Udom Emmanuel and 2nd respondent, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, supported the application on the grounds that the 4th respondent is hardly mentioned during hearing.

The tribunal chairman agreed with them and, therefore, ruled to strike out the 4th respondent from the petition.

All the parties involved in the petition thereafter agreed that 10 minutes each should be given to Unit, Ward, Party, Local Government Area witnesses, while 30 minutes to Global witnesses to testify during cross-examination.

By Amanam Uko