Ike Nnachi, Abakaliki
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ebonyi State has countered the protest by the All Progressives Congress(APC) in the State over the decision of the President of the Court of Appeal Honourable Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem to relocate the Ebonyi State Election Petitions Tribunal to Abuja.
The party noted that contrary to the claims of the APC, the relocation was for the overall interest of Justice, peace, and safety.
The PDP described it as unfortunate that a well-thought-out administrative Judicial decision has become the subject of crass blackmail, primitive influence peddling, name calling and obvious threats allegedly by officers of APC in Ebonyi State.
State Chairman of the PDP in Ebonyi State, Ifeanyi Nworie, stated this in Abakaliki, capital of the state on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, April, 26, the Secretary of Ebonyi State election petitions tribunal, Mr Nyior Henry Sekulla, announced the directive of the Appeal Court President for the relocation of the Tribunal to Abuja, a development that has generated mixed reactions from political actors in the State.
The ruling APC in the State had in a petition to its National Chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, signed by its Chairman, Stanley Okoro-Emegha and the Secretary, Mr Charles Ofoke, faulted the relocation of the tribunal.
The ruling party described it as the gimmicks of the PDP to subvert justice.
APC’s hostility caused relocation – PDP
But the State PDP acting Chairman, Mr Nworie, alleged that evidence abound to prove that the Ebonyi State Government had been notorious for its hostility towards the judiciary.
He argued that for the safety of the Court, its staff, litigants and their witnesses, the relocation of the Tribunal was a well-thought-out decision.
He said: “It is imperative to state that this is not the first time that the sitting of an Election Tribunal has been ordered to be held in a place outside the state where the elections took place.
“In the present dispensation, the President of the Court of Appeal of Nigeria has also ordered the relocation of the Election Tribunal in Rivers State and one other to Abuja.
“Suffice to say that Rivers State and the other state are PDP states. Therefore, the order directing the relocation of the Election Tribunal in Ebonyi State to Abuja cannot be an effort by the Peoples Democratic Party to subvert justice,” he added.
Mr Nworie further argued that for neutrality, the need for parties to have free and unhindered access to the Court as well as the need for Justice to be dispensed without fear or harm to the judges among other reasons, the relocation of the tribunal was a welcomed development.
“Ebonyi State, under the present administration, has a sad and painful history of harassing and intimidating Judges who refuse to do its unlawful bidding.
“Times without number we have witnessed the barricading of Courts in Ebonyi State by thugs and hirelings of the state Government on account of decisions and judgments that did not favour the Ebonyi State Government.
“As recently as the 15th and the 16th days of February 2023, members of the dreaded Ebubeagu militia of Ebonyi State were mobilised to protest and barricade the premises of the Ebonyi State High Court and that of the Federal High Court Abakaliki on account of the judgment by Honourable Justice Fatun Riman proscribing the Ebubeagu Security outfit of Ebonyi State for being illegal etc.
Staff, lawyers, and litigants ran and scampered for safety on each of the said occasions while the police did nothing.
“Furthermore, it is not disputable that the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Action Alliance (AA) also filed a petition challenging the outcome of the governorship election in Ebonyi State. Question is, can Professor Benard Odoh and Chijindu Odii, who are the Petitioners in that petition freely come to ventilate their grievances in Abakaliki Ebonyi State before the Election Tribunal when the Government of Ebonyi State has declared Professor Benard Odoh wanted and is busy hunting for him despite a subsisting court decision?
“In addition, during the collation of the Governorship election result in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, in the presence of the Commissioner of Police, the Director of State Security (DSS), the Resident Electoral Commissioner of Ebonyi State, members of the Press, etc., the APC collation agent threatened to slap and beat up the PDP State collation Agent and proceeded to mobilise thugs to the venue,” he averred.
Mr Nworie reiterated that the relocation of the tribunal would go a long way to serve the interest of justice, even as he noted that the order was within the powers of the Court of Appeal President, Hon Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem.
“The Peoples Democratic Party Ebonyi State Chapter wishes to affirm their confidence on the Election Petition Tribunal in Ebonyi State and further submit that the action of the President of Court of Appeal Federal Republic of Nigeria alongside the Election Petition Tribunal Members in Ebonyi State will in a long way serve interest of justice as same was carried out in line with the powers conferred on the aforementioned Judicial Officers by the Constitution.
“Most importantly, it is for the overall interest of Justice, peace, fairness and equity, especially as same has truncated the ploy to subvert the process in Ebonyi State by APC,” he concluded.