ABIA TRIBUNAL: Judgment set for 6th October '03, as parties adopt final written address | #NwokeukwuMascot
The Abia State Election Petition Tribunal has reserved, October, 6, 2023, for judgment in the petition against declaration of Mr Alex Otti as winner of the 18th March election.
The tribunal, after listening to parties adopt their final written addresses, struck out PDP's application seeking to hold a certain INEC's staff in contempt for flouting the order of court to allow Petitioners access to digital contents of the BVAS used by INEC in the conduct of the said election for forensic inspection. The Petitioner's lawyer contend that holding the staff in contempt will serve as deterrent to others.
Note; this application has no effect on the case but one that was meant to punish dishonesty and flagrant disregard to court order.
In adopting their final written addresses, Counsel to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Respondents, J T Nnodim (SAN) for INEC, Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN) for Otti and Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN) for Labour Party, individually, cited some unreported portions of the Judgement of the 2023, Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, suggesting that those portions would provide guide for the Abia Tribunal to follow in their own judgement.
Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), counsel for the 3rd Respondent, Labour Party argued that Section 77(3) is mere directory rather than mandatory as "make available" was used in the provision, depicting same as directory and not "submit", which will depict mandatory.
Chief Okey Ambrose Ahiwe's lead Counsel, Professor Paul Ananaba (SAN), while adopting his final written address posited that the case of the Petitioners is predicted upon corrupt breach of the Electoral Act, non-compliance with constitutional provisions and never a pre-election matter or can be said to be an internal affairs of the party, insofar election has been conducted and results announced by INEC.
Prof Paul Ananaba further cited many authorities to support his position, He emphatically stated that a constitutional violation through invalid process cannot produce a qualified candidate to contest the election. He challenged Dr. Ikpeazu (SAN) and argued that Section 77(3) is a mandatory provision, maintaining that the phrase "make available" has same dictionary meaning with "Submit".
Continuing, the lead Counsel stated that the weighty evidence placed before the court were largely unchallenged as the Respondents failed to give answers to Certified True Copies of documents from INEC, Abuja National Office confirming that Abia Labour Party didn't conduct any primary election, congresses or convention and neither notified INEC 21days to their purported Primary election nor submitted their party membership register as required by law. These are serious breaches of the law which cannot be clothed as internal affairs of a political party, he said.
Professor Ananaba (SAN), mocked the cunning attempt by the Respondents to remedy a fatal violation through introduction of a supposed report of Labour Party Primary Election which was not signed, stamped and has no date. Prof. Ananaba contended that no valid SPECIAL CONVENTION or CONGRESS by Abia Labour Party ever took place as confirmed by INEC, National Headquarters.
Chief Ahiwe’s lead Counsel also asked the court to dismiss exhibit P188 which was Obingwa LGA result generated in Abuja, unsigned even by agent of Labour Party and admit P38 which emanated from the Polling units and signed by political parties that participated in the election.
In conclusion, Professor Ananaba drew the attention of the court to the Kano FHC Judgement suit that sacked Mr. Alex Otti which has not been challenged, thereby making the judgment bidding. The legal luminary also noted the issue of over voting in 8 Local Governments, which was supported by CTC records of INEC backed documents. He relied on all ten issues for determination and adopted same as his Final written address urging the court to resolve accordingly.
The Petitioners framed 10 ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION:
1.) Whether having regard to the decision of the Federal High Court Kano Division in Suit No: FHC/KN/CS/07/2023 IBRAHIM HARUNA IBRAHIM V LABOUR PARTY & ANOR and the expiration by virtue of S 285 (12) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), of the Appeal. No CA/KN/101/M/2023, Dr. Alex Chioma Otti v Ibrahim Haruna Ibrahim, INEC and Labour Party, whether Dr. Alex Otti can continue to be Governor of Abia State?
2.) Whether the 3rd Respondent submitted its membership Register for Abia State to INEC 30 days before its purported Primary election?
3.) Whether the name of the 2nd Respondent was on the Register of members of 3rd Respondent at least 30 days before its primaries and whether his name was submitted to 1st Respondent?
4.) Whether the 3rd Respondent gave mandatory statutory notice 1st Respondent about its Congresses in Abia State?
5.) Whether the 3rd Respondent conducted valid SPECIAL CONVENTION or CONGRESS for the Governorship Election for 2023 Abia State Governorship Election, and whether 2nd Respondent validly participated in it and is a product of a valid SPECIAL CONVENTION or CONGRESS of 3rd Respondent?
6.) Whether the 2nd Respondent was not validly nominated and sponsored by the 3rd Respondent as its Candidate in the Governorship Election for Abia State held on the 18th day of March 2023, and is therefore not qualified to contest the said election?
7.) Whether the declaration and return of the 2nd Respondent was not unlawful and or marred by substantial non-compliance?
8.) Whether the 2nd Respondent scored the majority of lawful votes cast at the election?
9.)Whether the Petitioners have proved this Petition against the Respondents?
10.) Whether this Honourable Tribunal ought to order withdrawal and cancellation of the Certificate of Return issued to the 2nd Respondent and for same to be issued to the Petitioners?