Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
The National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Umuahia, has dismissed the petition filed by the Abia South senatorial candidate of the Labour Party, Chinedu Onyizu, against the election of Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA.
The Justice Adeniyi-led three-man panel struck out the petition for non-compliance with paragraph 18 of the first schedule of the Electoral Act.
According to the tribunal, the petitioners did not apply for pre-trial, even as it ruled that there was no proof of service of reply to the respondents.
Earlier when the matter was called up and appearances announced,
Counsel to the petitioner, Anagha Kalu Anagha, had earlier informed the court that his client, Onyizu was personally in court, and had an information he would want to personally deliver to the court.
When given the floor, Onyizu said that he had lost confidence in the panel, claiming that he heard that some people were bragging that they had access to the panel.
He further said that the Chairman of the panel was also the one who chaired the tribunal that tried petitions against Abaribe in 2019, alleging that there is affinity between the Senator and the tribunal Chairman.
Onyizu said he no longer had confidence in the justice of the tribunal, and demanded that the matter be transferred to another panel.
But Counsel to Senator Abaribe, Machukwu Ume, SAN, expressed shock over the comments and vituperations by the petitioner.
He said even though the Chairman of the panel presided over the 2019 tribunal that handled the petitions against Abaribe, the Senator did not in any way, influence the decision of the panel.
Counsels to APGA, Ogbonna Enekwa; and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Dr J. A Akubo, respectively, urged the court to throw away the petitioner’s application, arguing it ought to have come by way of motion in accordance with relevant laws.
INEC lawyer said the allegation of bias against the tribunal was baseless and should be dismissed.
After arguments and counter arguments, the court reserved judgment for the same day, and emerged after about four hours to deliver judgment.
Delivering judgment, the tribunal ruled that election petitions are special in nature, and if the application were allowed, it would open the floodgates for other litigants.
It further held that the right to transfer matter only lay with the President of the Court of Appeal.
Meanwhile, Senator Abaribe has hailed the judgment, and commended the judiciary for remaining the last hope of the common man.
The Senator who spoke through his Media Adviser Uchenna Awom, urged the petitioner to consider the elections over and support him.
In an interview, Onyizu described the ruling as a travesty of justice and vowed to appeal it.
He said his suit was dismissed on frivolous technicalities and expressed disappointment in the panel.
The Labour Party candidate also expressed doubt if he could get justice in the appellate court.