Ike Nnachi, Abakaliki
Protests on Thursday trailed the decision to relocate the Election Petition Tribunal from Abakaliki, the state capital, to Abuja.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) and a youths group, Unwuekunenyi United Youths Forum, on Thursday, kicked against the relocation of the Tribunal.
The two groups in separate statements described the decision as a ploy to subvert the course of justice.
They called for the Tribunal to be returned back to Abakaliki, capital of the state.
The President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, had on Wednesday, announced that the office of the Ebonyi Elections Petition Tribunal, Abakaliki, had been shut down.
She directed that the Tribunal be relocated to Abuja immediately.
According to her, all processes relating to matters before the Tribunal will continue in Abuja.
But the Ebonyi youths group protested against the relocation citing hardship on the people and lack of funds to mobilise both human and material resources to the nation’s capital during the sitting of the Tribunal.
They accused the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of orchestrating the relocation.
The group said that it was worried that there is bias of prejudice, in granting one party the preference of choosing a venue outside the Ebonyi State capital, Abakaliki.
National President of the group, Prince Uche Ega, noted that the panel of judges in the Ebonyi State Election Petition Tribunal were never under any pressure of threat, attack or any other danger.
“Neither was any party or persons to the post-election litigation being pressured, intimidated or attacked as to warrant the relocation of the Tribunal from Abakaliki to the FCT.
“That the cost of transportation to Abuja is high, the security situation of the route to Abuja from Ebonyi is dangerous and other accruing logistics associated with the relocation is excruciating; witnesses to the matter may suffer abduction en route Abuja, thereby impeding the evidences required of them.
“The present development surrounding the news of the relocation of the Tribunal to the FCT is already building tension and is capable of throwing the state into an avoidable and unnecessary crisis. Suffice it to say that this whole shenanigans are suspicious and are unacceptable to the people of Unwuekunenyi and the good people of the state.
“On the strength of the foregoing, we therefore call on the relevant authorities namely the Nigeria Judicial Council, the Chief Justice of Nigeria , the President of the Appeal Court, and Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to urgently consider our appeal and return the Tribunal to Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, as obtained in other peaceful states of the country,” the group said.
Also, the APC in a statement signed by the State Chairman, Stanley Emegha, in a letter to the National Chairman, Abdulahi Adamu, implored him you to use his good offices to reach out to the appropriate authorities in ensuring a reversal of the decision.
They noted that the call for Governorship, National and State House of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal resuming sitting in Abakaliki Ebonyi State Capital is in the interest of justice, equity and fairness.
They said: “That the above subject referred, dated 24th day of April, 2023, and addressed to the Commissioner of Police, Ebonyi State Police Command, and purportedly written by Election Petition Tribunal holding at Abakaliki is the gimmick of the opposition parties, particularly, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ebonyi State to truncate justice.
They lamented that the relocation will have huge cost implication which have led to public outcry against the decision.
“It is on record that Ebonyi State is the most peaceful and law abiding state in the South-East and very conducive for the Governorship, National, and Houses of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal.
“Transferring the Tribunal to Abuja at the instance of the frivolous complaint of the opposition party, PDP, is not only laughable but ridiculous to our dear party in particular and Ebonyians in general.
“That the Governorship, National and State Houses of Assembly Election Petition since its inauguration in Ebonyi State has not recorded any threat or intimidation from any person or group of persons save this PDP nefarious/dastardly movements.
“That our party, APC Ebonyi State has strong belief in the judiciary and the rule of law but will not fold its hands to watch electoral miscreants abuse the rule of law and the judiciary, hence this petition.
“That Ebonyi State has one hundred and seventy one (171) electoral wards and Two thousand, nine hundred and forty six (2,946) polling units.
“The cost implication of mobilising witnesses in the said wards and polling units from Ebonyi State to Abuja in every court/tribunal sitting is not only cumbersome but also capital intensive, and shutting out Ebonyians, our party faithful and other interested parties from their fundamental right of participating in the court/tribunal proceedings,” the party said.