A’Ibom Guber Appeal: Tribunal slaughtered Justice – Ekere’s Counsel

Dismiss Appeal, evidence lacking’, Gov. Udom, PDP, INEC tell Court’

Legal crossfire ensued at the Court of Appeal, Calabar, Cross River State, on Monday, as parties in the petition filed by the 2019 governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akwa Ibom State, Obong Nsima Ekere against the tribunal victory of Governor Udom Emmanuel who ran on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Respective parties adopted their briefs, and the court reserved judgement on the appeal. Date for the judgement shall be communicated soon.

J. S. Okutepa, SAN, Counsel to Obong Ekere, prayed the court to nullify the 2019 governorship election of Akwa Ibom State, saying “substantial noncompliance affected the outcome of the election.”

He said the Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Uyo “engaged in technical justice without engaging in substance and merit of the case despite avalanche of merit before it.”

Okutepa decried that the tribunal having granted leave to inspect electoral materials, later rejected the inspection report during judgement. According to him, Section 151 of the Evidence Act permits admissibility of such document.

He further argued that the tribunal committed an error by allowing Respondents’ witnesses to testify without a Witness Statement on Oath. “It was a strange procedure”, he noted.

Reacting to the Preliminary Objection filed by the PDP, Okutepa called for it to be struck out, describing it as “most misconceived and not properly raised as contained in Order 10 of the Rules of the Appeal Court.” He also faulted the Preliminary Objection on grounds that it being typed using 10-11 fonts size falls short of the 12 fonts size standard of the court.

Summarizing his points, Okutepa said the tribunal was “an abbatoir”, that “justice was slaughtered on the altar of technical justice.”

Governor Emmanuel’s Counsel, Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, prayed the court to strike out the appeal on grounds that it lacks merit.

Ikpeazu okayed the verdict of the tribunal saying the petitioner failed to present evidence of noncompliance as well as present witnesses from all the polling units to testify against the conduct of the election in accordance to the Electoral Act.

The petitioner had presented only 11 witnesses at the tribunal.

Counsel to the PDP (2nd Respondent), Dr. Taiyo Oyetibo SAN, also prayed for the appeal to be dismissed.

He said the petitioners’ claim that there was no accreditation was not proved as they failed to present witness(es) to testify to that effect.

Dr. Oyetibo reacted to the petitioner’s claim that the inspection report was dismissed during judgement. He said the tribunal has the “power to strike out evidence earlier admitted at the point of judgment”, and cited a precedent in the case of Shannu vs. Afri Bank.

Counsel to the 3rd Petitioner (INEC), Sylvia Ogwemoh, prayed the court to ‘dismiss the appeal because it is lacking in merit.”

© Ofonime Honesty