A’Ibom Election Tribunal: APC, Umana Accuse INEC Of Bias | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe


A’Ibom Election Tribunal: APC, Umana Accuse INEC Of Bias

Posted: Jun 23, 2015 at 8:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

•  As Tribunal Rules On Relocation Of Tribunal To Abuja June 24th

By Joe Nwankwo, Abuja


The All Progressives Congress (APC) and its governorship candidate in the last election in Akwa-Ibom State, Umana Umana on Monday accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of biased and making it difficult for his team to access and inspect materials used for the elections.

They faulted the motion brought by the Akwa Ibom State governor Udom Emmanuel, challenging, among others, the relocation of the state Governorship Election Petition Tribunal to Abuja from Uyo, where it had sat before it was moved on the grounds of insecurity.

Counsel to the APC and Umanna, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), at the resumed sitting of the tribunal, declared that INEC was working in alliance with the Peoples Democratic party (PDP) and its candidate at the election, to frustrate his clients’ effort to inspect and carry out forensic analysis of the materials used for the election, and also obtain their certified true copies (CTC) as required.

Olanipekun, who was arguing his clients’ application for extension of time to inspect the election materials, noted that while the PDP and Emmanuel were not only opposed to his clients’ application, they “were crying more than the bereaved.”

He said INEC’s opposition to the application was a negation of its statutory responsibility to not only allow any party access to such materials upon application, it was required under Section 77 of the Electoral Act, to provide any applying party the CTC of the election materials.

Olanipekun, while faulting INEC’s claim that an inspection of the materials had taken place, said that “we are protesting the partiality of INEC. It is a national institution. It should be neutral. What we seek is not a privilege. It is a statutory right. It is a responsibility it (INEC) must perform.”

On the motion, challenging the tribunal’s relocation from Uyo to Abuja Olanipekun argued that the applicant’s heavy reliance on the Court of Appeal’s decision in the case of Ibori vs Ogboru (to the effect that a tribunal must only sit where the election was held) was wrong because the Ibori case was decided in 2005 under the 2002 Electoral Act and before the Constitution was amended.

He further argued that under the amended Constitution, election tribunal is now a national institution, listed under the 6th Schedule of the Constitution. He noted that Section 285(6) and (7), which limited the hearing of election petition to 180, did not exist when the Ibori case was decided.

He argued that the order sought by the applicant, to the effect that the relocation should be declared unconstitutional was beyond the powers of the tribunal and could not be granted because the applicant have not only failed to prove that the tribunal decided its relocation, but also failed to produce the directive it sought to be declared unconstitutional.

Olanipekun, who argued that the motion was an abuse of the court process and should be dismissed, drew the tribunals’ attention to a similar suit before the Federal High Court, Uyo, involving the PDP which is also challenging the relocation of the tribunal to Abuja.

He noted that the suit marked: FHC/UY/CS/1107/2015 was filed on June 10, 2015 by Honourable Udoh Akpan and 25 others against the President of the Court of Appeal and four others.

Responding to the argument by the applicant’s lawyer, Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) to the effect that the relocation was an administrative action, Olanipekun faulted  the manner adopted by Emmanuel to challenge the relocation.

He argued that rather than file the motion, the applicant, having argued that the relocation was an administrative action, ought to seek a judicial review of such an administrative decision.

Awomolo had, while moving the application noted that the parties were, without any prior hearing, informed of the relocation of the tribunal on May 30, 2015. He argued that his client’s motion was challenging the territorial jurisdiction of the tribunal to hear the petition in Abuja.

He contended that the Akwa Ibom State governorship election, the subject matter of the petition was held in the state, and that the original and acceptable venue for the tribunal’s business is Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom State.”

He urged the tribunal to declare that the relocation of the tribunal to Abuja was “in breach of the provisions of Section 285(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and paragraph 20(2) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended)”.

Awomolo is also seeking the following prayers:

•An order setting aside the decision relocating the governorship election tribunal from Uyo, Akwa Ibom to the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja for the hearing and determination of the petition.

*An order consequentially directing that the governorship election tribunal be relocated back to Uyo, Akwa Ibom State for the hearing and determination of the petition.”

The tribunal has adjourned to June 24 for ruling on the applications argued yesterday.

Umana and the party are challenging Emmanuel’s victory at the election before the tribunal. Emmanuel, PDP, INEC) the Akwa Ibom State Resident Electoral Commissioner and the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) are listed as respondents to the petition.