In his oral application before adopting his final written address, Counsel to Ikpeazu, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), raised objections regarding the filing of three separate addresses of 40 pages each by the petitioners
The Governorship Elections Petition Tribunal sitting in Umuahia, Abia State on Monday reserved ruling in the petition filed by the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, Dr. Alex Otti.
Otti and APGA are, in their petition, challenging the declaration of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu as the governor of Abia State and urged the tribunal to declare him the rightful winner of the poll.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that parties in the petition adopted their final written addresses during the tribunal’s sitting on Monday.
In his oral application before adopting his final written address, Counsel to Ikpeazu, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), raised objections regarding the filing of three separate addresses of 40 pages each by the petitioners.
Olanipekun said the Electoral Act allowed parties in election petitions to file only one address of 40 pages, adding that the petitioners’ counsel could only adopt one out of the 120-page written addresses.
The objection was supported by the Counsel to the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), but Counsel for the Independent National Electoral Commission, Chief Solomon Awomolo (SAN), did not join them.
In his argument, Counsel to the petitioners, Chief Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), said the argument of the respondents that the petitioners should be limited to a 40-page address to their three different addresses “does not stand for justice”.
Akeredolu said the argument by the respondents “is standing justice on its head”, adding that they did not cite any law to support the application.
He said considering that the three respondents filed separate addresses, raising different issues, the law allowed the petitioners to reply to their addresses distinctly.
Akeredolu said: “It is late in the day for the respondents to file oral application after they had filed their replies to the petitioners address without raising an objection.”
The tribunal Chairman, Hon. Justice Usman Bwala, overruled the objection and allowed the adoption of the 120-page petitioners’ address in reply to the respondents’ final addresses.
Adopting their addresses, Olanipekun, Ikpeazu and Awomolo urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition, saying that the reliefs sought by the petitioners are “un-grantable”.
They argued that the petitioners failed to prove their allegations of irregularities and substantial non-compliance to the Electoral Act.
Akeredolu, while adopting his address, however, urged the tribunal to give judgment in favour of the petitioners.
He said the petitioners conceded that elections were duly conducted in 14 out of the 17 local government areas of the state.
Akeredolu said the petitioners only contested that election did not take place in Obingwa, Osisioma, Ugwunagbo, Isialangwa North and Umuahia North Local Government Areas.
He said on that ground, the burden “has shifted to the respondents” to prove that elections were duly conducted in those areas.
Akeredolu said unfortunately, the respondents failed to do so, adding: “Even INEC did not call any witness to prove that it conducted elections in the three council areas.”
Adjourning the case, the chairman reserved judgment on the matter and said the date would be communicated to the parties in due course.
Meanwhile, Bwala warned all the parties in the petition to refrain from sponsoring uncharitable publications that might denigrate the integrity of the tribunal.
He warned that appropriate measures would be taken against offenders.
Bwala was referring to advertorials in the newspapers, which were brought to the notice of the tribunal by Olanipekun, who alleged that the content questioned the integrity of the judges. (NAN).