By NewsCritic Reporters
The National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Umuahia today adopted the final addresses of the Petitioners and the respondents in the petition filed by the former speaker Abia State House of Assembly and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP candidate, Rt Hon Chinedum Orji, against the victory of Hon (Sir) Obi Aguocha the Member representing Umuahia/Ikwuano federal constituency at the National Assembly.
In his oral presentation before the panel led by Justice Abubakar Kutigi, counsel to the first respondent (Obi Aguocha), Barr Anaga Kalu Anaga urged the Tribunal to dismiss the case of the Petitioners because their petition is incompetent and ought to be dismissed.
The first respondent’s counsel contention is that the Petitioners as required by law didn’t discharge their case and failed to prove their case before the tribunal.
According to Barr Anaga the Petitioners’ witnesses who came on subpoena to give evidence were in breach of the Electoral Act as amended because their evidences were not front loaded at the time of filing their petition, arguing that non-compliance renders it a nullity because it was time barred.
He cited the case of Advance Nigeria Democratic Party Vs INEC where the appellate court decided that lower Tribunal erred in the witness oath because a violation of the Electoral Act will render the witness statement of oath incompetent.
The lead counsel also submitted that the Petitioners failed to prove their allegations of malpractices as required by law. He said that the law requires that to prove allegations of electoral malpractices, the Petitioners need to bring witnesses in all the units in question to come and testify, and can’t use one polling unit agent to generalize on the outcome.
In conclusion, both the INEC and the first respondent counsel, urged the court to agree that the election was free and fair and in compliance with the Electoral Act as Amended and dismiss the petition because Hon Obi Aguocha scored the majority of lawful votes cast during the election.
However, counsel to the Petitioner Barr Nkume, said on the issue of determination of majority of lawful votes cast, he submitted that the the Electoral Act gave the court the power to recompute the results and announce the winner citing Hope Uzodinma Vs Emeka Ihedioha as authority.
The Tribunal Chairman after adopting their final addresses reserved judgement to a later date to be communicated to the parties.
In a brief chat with The NewsCritic at the premises of the court, Barr Anaga noted that he has put his case across to the Tribunal, adding that it’s now left for the court to decide.
NewsCritic online reports that Hon Obi Aguocha candidate of the Labour Party, LP, defeated his closest rival Rt Hon Chinedum Orji then Speaker of Abia State House of Assembly, and son of the then senator representing Abia Central senatorial district at the National Assembly, Chief T. A Orji.
According to the INEC declared results, Obi Aguocha scored 48,199 votes to defeat Chinedum Orji who got 35,296 votes to place second.