The People’s Democratic Party, PDP, candidate and lawmaker representing Umuahia East constituency of Abia State, Honourable Chukwudi Apugo and his defence team today at the State Assembly Election Petition Tribunal, Umuahia, suffered a big disgrace when the panel members blasted them and dismissed the team as incompetent, following their poor outing during hearing today on the petition file by the All Progressives Congress candidate, Augustine Okezie Meregini.
Mr Augustine Okezie, the candidate of the APC for Umuahia East state constituency seat in the 2019 election, had filed a petition against the INEC declaration of the PDP candidate, Hon. Apugo as winner of the March 9th state assembly polls.
The APC candidate in his petition before the tribunal is asking that INEC should declare him winner of the Umuahia East Assembly election based on the fact that he scored the highest number of valid votes during the election. The petitioner claimed that results in five polling units were manipulated in favour of the first defendant, Hon. Apugo to enable INEC declare him the winner.
It was during the cross examination of the petitioner by the defence team that the drama ensued following the petitioners articulate response to questions put to him by the defence team. The defence counsel was in the habit of repeating the same questions over and over again a situation that infuriated the panel members and portrayed the defence team as people who lack knowledge of election petition matters.
Trouble started after the panel cautioned the defence counsel to stop repeating questions and wasting time of the Honourable tribunal, following which the defence counsel asked the petitioner to tell the tribunal the number of votes that was allegedly deducted from his original votes, as he claimed in his petition. On hearing this question the panel chairman asked the counsel the meaning of the question since the petitioner did not state in his petition the number of votes allegedly deducted from his valid votes in five polling units except the exhibits that he tendered. The question in their estimation was ridiculous and smacks of ignorance of election petition procedures.
Then another member of the panel who was visibly enrage by the defence team lack of understanding of election petition matters called out the defence team and demanded that they discontinue with the petition because they don’t know what they are doing.
Said the tribunal, ‘’you don’t know anything about election petition, that is why you are asking him (petitioner) to supply figures that he did not state in his petition. That shows that you don’t know what you are doing. All you care is to collect money from petitioners when in actual fact you do not know anything about election petition’’, he fumed. He suggested that they should be debriefed.
At this point the defence team had to hurriedly close the cross examination of the petitioner by submitting that the state assembly election for Umuahia east was free and fair. The tribunal latter adjourned till July 7 and 8 for further hearing.
Speaking with News Critic after the sitting, the petitioner, Augustine Meregini said that he is confident that the Tribunal will do justice to the matter. He said ‘’I have some level of confidence on the tribunal, however, we are evolving in Nigeria and we have cases of justice being thwarted. I hope the panel will follow the facts as presented by returning me as the duly elected member representing Umuahai East state constituency in the house of assembly’’, he stressed.