We have read with consternation the falsehood and lie published by one Wale Odunsi in an on-line media publication, “The News Express” of 16th June 2019. In the said article bearing the above title, the author in total disregard and disrespect to the Tribunal and honour of the revered Chairman, Justice A. M. Yakubu spewed falsehood and lie in his jaundice report alleging that the Judge at the last sitting of the Tribunal “WARNED” the petitioner, Nsima Ekere and his counsel against delay tactics.
Hear him, “The Tribunal led by Justice A. M. Yakubu gave the warning in reaction to a request by Ekere for more time to respond to the applications made by respondents. This is as counsel to Ekere, Jubrin Oketepa, SAN at the session at Magistrate court complex in Uyo prayed the court for an extension of the pre-trial period to enable them prepare their responses”.
Nsima Ekere’s request for extension of time was predicated first, on a spurious application brought before the Tribunal by counsel who sought to be joined in the suit as Respondents; and secondly by the intransigence of INEC to an earlier Order of the Tribunal for the inspection of electoral materials by the Petitioners. Ekere’s Counsel had informed the Tribunal thus; (1) “We have been inundated with applications by persons/parties who seek to be joined in the case. These motions were served on us on 10th of June. Today is 14th, barely 4 days to the conclusion of pre-hearing as proposed by the Tribunal. We are yet to file our responses to these application”. (2) “we got the Order of this honourable Tribunal to cause INEC to be subpoenaed to grant us access to the examination of electoral materials/documents. Mr. Chairman, up to this hour as I speak we still have not had access to essential documents kept by INEC. We managed to get a few on the 11th of June under very tortuous process with 3 of our lawyers keeping vigil at Inec’s office. These documents are not only necessary but important for the prosecution of our petition”.
Rules of court allows 7 days for response to motions and applications so the Petitioner was well within time. Justice cannot be served where Nsima Ekere is denied access to information or not allowed to exhaust all sources by which he can secure justice. These are established legal principles upon which counsel to Petitioner sought the Tribunal’s consent for extension of time to file his responses and conclude inspection of sensitive materials in the custody of INEC as stated in (1) and (2) above. Bearing these facts, none of the Respondents’ counsel objected to Ekere’s request.
On Ekere’s request for extension of time, Justice Yakubu ruled that arguments by Counsels were needless as none of the Respondents had objected to Petitioners’ request. On the motion to join suit filed by Samuel Udo (Esq.), the Chairman submitted that dates of service and response were close moreso, as the 2nd Respondent had not been served. The Tribunal ruled in favour of the Petitioners for one (1) week extension of time to respond to recent motion/application filed in respect of the petition. At no point or time during the Tribunal’s proceedings of 14th June 2019 did Justice A. M. Yakabu issue or make any pronouncement warning Petitioner’s Counsel, Okutepa (SAN) against delay tactics. If after hearing Ekere’s request, the Tribunal proceeded to rule in his favour where lies the basis or rationale for the warning allegedly given by the Judge? Nothing can be more preposterous and atrocious than attempting to put words in the mouth of the learned Jurist.
Barely a few hours after the mischievous and sensational publication, jaundiced social media activists and on-line media platforms went agog with the news with a premeditated intent to mock and ridicule Nsima Ekere. Incidentally, attempts to trivialize proceedings of the Tribunal with sensational & scandalous headlines and subjective reporting comes with its backlash at the detriment of both parties. Such reports have the tendency to fuel or stoke disaffection engendering friction between the parties. It has the potentials to incense the public some of whom may impute prejudice on the Tribunal Chairman forcing crisis and making it difficult for the Tribunal to continue sitting in Uyo. That ofcourse, will be a huge price to pay for the ignorance and over zealousness of minions who have invaded the media space like soldiers of fortune.
Since the commencement of proceedings, Akwa Ibom Governorship Election Petition Tribunal under the Chairmanship of Justice Yakubu has been magnanimous to both sides. Justice Yakubu has been fair, fearless and firm in the conduct of proceedings. His mien and temperament as one with the power of life and death in the temple of justice is worthy of good certification. It is on the strength of this exemplary conduct that counsel to the 1st Respondent, Assam Assam (SAN) rose at the last sitting to commend Justice Yakubu for his fair mindedness and the astute manner he managed the Tribunal’s proceedings. In his response, the Chairman not only thanked but equally commended the silks and lawyers at the Tribunal for the cooperation extended to him and the Tribunal thereby making their job easy.
Regrettably, it is this cordiality and harmony at proceedings of the Tribunal that these sponsored hatchet writers want to kill through quackery and irresponsible journalism. It is important for the sake of all that they be called to order to avoid unpleasant consequences.
Edet Eyo Bassey (Esq.)
APC Media, Akwa Ibom Chapter
17th June 2019