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Abia Election Tribunal concludes, 22 rulings on appeal

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…anxiety as Otti foot-drags over appeal

The Abia State Election Petition Tribunal has concluded its work with 22 judgments already on appeal. However, the All Progressives Grand Alliance governorship candidate, Dr. Alex Otti is yet to go on appeal with the 21 days deadline drawing close. PETER OKORE in Umuahia reports

The Abia State Election Petition Tribunal which started its hearings on petitions arising from the 2015 general elections in Abia on June has completed its sittings in Umuahia, creating so much anxiety in the state. For the 180 days duration given by the Electoral Act to dispose all the petitions, records show that it handled a total of 33 petitions in Abia state; made up of three petitions in respect of the governorship election; five for the Senate, five for the Federal House of Representatives and 20 petitions for the State House of Assembly.

Out of these numbers, a total of 28 petitions received summary judgments. One petition was withdrawn and struck-out on grounds of abandonment, at the instance of the petitioner.  This was in respect of Abia Central senatorial seat in the case of Chief Acho Obioma versus Chief Theodore Orji. Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Usman Bwala said most of the petitions were struck-out for lack of merit and the inability of the petitioner to prove their allegations beyond reasonable doubts and could not address their petitions in line with the Electoral Act, as amended.

There were three sets of judgments delivered in the three governorship petitions brought before the Abia Election Petitions Tribunal. One of them was the case of Dr. Alex Otti versus Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, which was taken on merit. The other two cases of Nyerere Anyim versus Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu and Reagan Ufomba versus Alex Otti, respectively, were treated summarily. Nyerere of the All Progressives Congress (APC) did not appear for hearing, while Ufomba withdrew his petition.

Meanwhile, arising from these judgments and, as at the time of filing this report, no case of appeal in respect of the Abia state governorship election petition ruling has been noticed at the secretariat of the Tribunal in Umuahia. This has increased the anxiety among parties as to what the other is thinking.

According to the secretary of the Tribunal, Mr. Titus Olalere, each party has 21 days to give notice of appeal after the last day of judgment. He disclosed that if there would be any appeal in the case of the governorship judgment, the petitioner (Otti) is still looking at the expiration of the deadline. He, however, stated that the cases for the Senate, House of Representatives and State Assembly would commence in Owerri from next week.

However, a total of 22 judgments cutting across the Senate, House of Representatives and State Assembly have been filed before the Court of Appeal, sitting in Owerri, Imo state, for further determinations.

They include, Orji Uzor Kalu of Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) versus Mao Ohuabunwa of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Chief David Ogbaa Onuoha (Bourdex) of APGA versus Mao Ohuabunwa; all for Abia-North Senatorial district and Andrew Nweke versus Chief Theodore Orji for Abia- Central senatorial district.

There are also for Abia-South Senatorial zone, Sen. Enyinnaya Abaribe of PDP versus Chris Nkwonta (APGA). The Tribunal ordered for a re-run in some wards in this senatorial district. There is also another case of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) versus Chris Nkwonta; PDP versus Chris Nkwonta and Chris Nkwonta and APGA versus Abaribe.

Those for the Federal House of Representatives are Kennedy Adiele (PDP) versus Uzoma Nkem Abonta of APGA and Nnamdi Iro Orji (APGA) versus Nkole Uko Ndukwe (PDP), as well as Dr. Ejike Oji versus Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejiaka (PDP); Hon. Chinenye Ike (APGA) versus Darlington Nwaokeocha(PDP). In the case of Isialangwa federal constituency, there is a re-run election in some wards.

Those for the State Assembly are Mr. Karibe Pascal Orji (APGA) versus Cosmos Ndukwe (PDP); APGA versus Nwachukwu  Chijioke (Umuahia-South); APGA versus Jeremiah Uzosike; APGA versus Chijioke Okoro; PDP versus Luke Ukara (APGA); Chukwu Chijioke versus Cosmos Ndukwe (Bende); PDP versus Chukwu Chijioke and others. The Tribunal ordered for a re-run in this Bende state constituency.

There is also Mr. Emeka Nnamani (APGA) versus Mrs. Blessing Nwagba (PDP) for Aba-Central. There is also a re-run here. The rest are Hon. Kennedy John Ogelle (PDP) versus Mrs. Uloma Onuoha (APGA); Chijioke Versus Jeremiah Uzosike; Mrs. Kate Maduako (PDP) versus Abraham Obaa (APGA) for Aba-central and Mrs. Blessing Nwagba versus Emeka Sunday Nnamani.

Based on the  21 days option for parties to respond to appeals, as provided by the law, hearing at the Court of Appeal, Owerri, is expected to commence on 16/17th Novembers for the State Assembly judgments, while the National Assemblies are expected to commence within the first week in December, depending on how parties involved calculates its date.