The three-man Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Umuahia has reserved judgement in the petition filed by the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, governorship candidate, Dr Alex Otti, against the election of Dr Okezie Ikpeazu of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the March 9, 2019 governorship election in Abia State.
Chairman of the panel said after adopting the written addresses of the Petitioners and Respondents Counsels today, Thursday, August 29th that they would not be able to give the date for the judgement immediately, adding that the matter has been adopted for judgement which would be communicated to the parties.
Earlier, counsel to the first respondent, Wole Olanipekun, SAN, in his oral submission said that the petitioner is relying on the card reader as basis for their petition. According to him, while the innovation of the card reader is salutatory, it is not the law.
The respondent counsel further submitted that though manual accreditation may be contrary to the regulations, but not to the relevant section of the electoral act. He argued that out of 788 polling units, the petitioners called only 65 witnesses in polling units, and wondered what happened to the remaining 723 polling units. He submitted that the tribunal has no jurisdiction to grant any of their reliefs sought by the petitioners.
However, the petitioners counsel posited that the grounds of the relief they are seeking are clear, and urged the panel to discountenance the submission of Olanipekun, and his team because it is a rehash of what has been done before. He urged the Tribunal to dismiss their objection. He argued that there is totally a new regime regarding voting, adding that the cases of Wike and Others being cited by the respondents are no longer good laws.
NewsCritic reports that the Tribunal and the premises of the Abia State Judiciary headquarters Umuahia was filled to capacity with party loyalists and supporters who thronged the venue to show solidarity to their candidates.
Abia State governor, Ikpeazu was in the court today, so also was Dr Alex Otti who was the first to arrive.
Speaking with journalists at the end of the session, Otti said his team has done its best, and expressed confidence that the Tribunal judgement would be in his favour.
The petition of Otti against Ikpeazu is generating a lot of tension in Abia as observers believe that the APGA candidate has a strong case that might lead to the cancellation of the election. The case has been generating so much heat in the Abia polity to the extent that the APGA as a political party in the state became divided over the tribunal matter. A faction of APGA was accused of trying to frustrate the petition at the tribunal at the instance of the PDP government of the state.