There is palpable tension Awka following the relocation of the Anambra Election Petitions Tribunal from Awka to Ilorin, Kwara State.
The move is coming after the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, nullified the candidacy of the All Progressives Congress, Senator Andy Uba. Uba is the main challenger to the governorship election victory of the All Progressives Grand Alliance candidate, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, at the tribunal.
The secretary of the tribunal, Mr Surajo Gusau, who had announced the relocation of the tribunal from Awka to Ilorin, on Tuesday, said it was an administrative directive from the Appeal Court.
Gusau, who did not give any reason for the relocation, added that should any reason be given, he would communicate to the petitioners and respondents as well as the media.
Speaking with our correspondent in Awka on Tuesday, a constitutional lawyer, Mr John Ifedi, said although the tribunal had the legal right to sit anywhere in the country, what should be paramount is that the tribunal must be seen to be transparent, independent and devoid of any external influence.
“As a matter of fact, the relocation of the tribunal would be greeted with anxiety because of the tension it has generated in the state. It won’t be the first time it is happening, what should be of concern is that it must be seen to be totally transparent and devoid of external influence,” Ifedi added.
Another lawyer, Mr Akachukwu Ileka, expressed fears that the move might be a grand design to influence the decisions of the tribunal judges against the victory of Soludo.
Ileka said, “There is nothing wrong in sitting the tribunal on a neutral ground, but the fear is that some people close to the government may be working hard to influence the judges to declare Uba, winner of the election in Ilorin where there may not be protest should it happen.”
However, the Deputy Director, Senator Andy Uba Governorship Campaign Organisation, Mr Ikechukwu Onyia, dismissed any fear arising from the development.
Onyia urged APGA and its supporters not to entertain any fear if the party was sure that it won the election.
When contacted, the National Legal Adviser, APGA, Mr Sly Ezeokenwa, said the governorship election was free and fair and the party is hopeful that its victory would be upheld at the tribunal.
“I will not comment on the tribunal relocation issue now until every consultation is done. We have a lead counsel, he will speak at the right time,” he added.