The National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Umuahia has dismissed and struck out the petition filed by the Abia South senatorial candidate of the Labour Party, Chinedu Onyeizu, against the election of Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA.
Onyeizu’s petition was dismissed for non-compliance with paragraph 18 of the first schedule of the Electoral Act.
The Court ruled that the petitioners did not apply for pre-trial, adding 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 1st petitioner, Anagha Kalu Anagha, informed the court that his client, Onyeizu was personally in court, and had information he would want to personally deliver to the court.
When given the floor, Onyeizu said that he had lost confidence in the Justice Adeniyi-led three-man 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 an affinity between the Senator and the tribunal Chairman.
Onyeizu said he no longer had confidence in the justice of the tribunal and demanded that the matter be transferred to another panel.
But in a swift response, 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.
Similarly, Counsels to APGA, Ogbonna Enekwa; and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Dr J. An 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’s lawyer said the allegation of bias against the tribunal was baseless and should be dismissed.
After arguments and counterarguments, the court reserved judgment for the same day and emerged after about four hours to deliver judgement.
Delivering judgement, 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 matters only lay with the President of the Court of Appeal.
On the motion by the respondents that the petitioners did not comply with paragraph 18 of the first schedule of the Electoral Act which stipulates that seven days after the close of pleadings, petitioners ought to apply for the issuance of pre-trial forms, the court agreed with the respondents.
Counsels to the respondents had argued that according to the law, failure to comply with that stipulated that respondents could apply for the dismissal of such suit ” because it means that the petitioner has abandoned his petition”.
The court ruled that the petitioners filed their petition but could not produce proof of service.
Speaking, one of the Counsels to APGA, Uche Ihemanma, hailed the ruling of the court, saying that the petitioner abandoned his petition.
” The Court found that the petitioners did not comply with paragraph 18 of the Electoral Act which has to do with the issuance of pre-trial from. And the position of the law is that it is a helpless situation.
” It means that the petitioner abandoned his petition and there is nothing the court can do because it has robbed the court of jurisdiction to do any other thing in that trial”.
Responding also, Senator Abaribe described the court ruling as upright and victory for democracy.
The Senator who spoke through his Media Adviser, Uchenna Awom, said ” we didn’t expect anything less because Senator Abaribe won that election fair and square”.
He commended the judiciary for remaining the last hope of the common man.
Abaribe urged his opponents to consider the elections over and support him in his bid to give the people quality representation.
” He should congratulate the winner after all, Senator Abaribe is his brother. He loses nothing if he cooperates with his brother who is a man widely acclaimed as being a true representative of his people.
” He is fearless and committed to issues that concern the Igbo race. He should congratulate his brother and he has nothing to lose because the future is still bright for him as a young man”.
Speaking with Vanguard, Onyeizu described the action of the tribunal as ” a travesty of justice” and vowed to appeal the ruling.
He expressed shock that his protest against the Chairman of the tribunal was not considered.