From PETER OKORE, Umuahia
The various parties involved in the 2019 Governorship election petitions in Abia state, Thursday, August 29 2019, adopted their final written addresses before the Justice Lekan Ogumoye-led Tribunal sitting in Umuahia, the Abia state Capital.
The written addresses were from the incumbent Abia state Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the PDP, INEC, the APGA governorship candidate for the 2019 governorship election in Abia State, Dr. Alex Otti and the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA.
Otti and his party, APGA, had approached the panel challenging the declaration of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, as winner of the March 19, 2019 governorship election in Abia. Otti alleged that there were election irregularities and mal-practices during the polls.
Adopting his address, the petitioner, Otti, through his counsel, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), said that there is a totally new regime regarding voting and urged the tribunal to dismiss the objections of the respondents.
The counsel for the first respondent and Abia State Governor, Mr. Wole Olanipekun (SAN), urged the panel to discountenance the petition saying that the main document the petitioner was relying upon was procured after the petition was filled.
Also, counsel to the 2nd respondent and INEC, Mr. Garba said Local Government evidence are hearsay evidence that cannot be relied upon while Counsel to the 3rd respondent, the PDP, Onyinyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), argued that the case was erected on a very wrong premise and should be dismissed.
After hearing the addresses, the Chairman of the Panel, Justice Ogumoye announced that the judgment date for the matter will be communicated to the parties involved at the right time.
The State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, government functionaries, Dr. Alex Otti and supporters as well as other party members were among the people who besieged the court premises in Umuahia. In their respective reactions both parties claimed victory at the end.
Speaking at the premises of the High Court Complex Umuahia shortly after the adoption of the written addresses, the governorship candidate of the APGA in Abia state, Dr. Alex Otti expressed confidence that he would get judgment at the governorship election petition tribunal sitting in Abia. He expressed hope that with the on-going reforms in the Judiciary in the country, the tribunal judges would do the needful.
“We are very positive that with what our judges are doing we will win the case. I don’t know the judges but looking at them, I have no reason to doubt their competence, honesty and credibility. I don’t know if anything had happened and you can’t tell peoples’ mind by mere looking at their faces. But, having listened to the way the judges conducted the sitting today, I believe and pray that they will do the right thing”, he said
He charged his supporters not to lose faith on the ability of the judges to give judgment. “We know what happened during the election and because we have the judiciary which, going through sort of restructuring today, we believed that we will get justice; and with justice we will come and redeem the state.
“If you go around the state you see that nothing is working, the roads are not there; the hospitals are virtually closed down, the educational system is completely collapsed, our students are doing not because of what the government have done but in spite of what they have done
“I believe that if we have a purposeful government in this state our story must change because our people are hard -working and industrious. They just need some support from the government and I don’t think it is too much to have such support.
“People are not paid their salaries and the pensioners are dying, so the question for this government is what are they doing with our money?
“The Federal Ministry of Finance Budget and Planning have indicated asking states who beneffited from the federal government bail-out fund to start refunding the funds. If Abia state did not pay salaries with that bailout funds, how do we pay it back. So it is a pitiable situation in Abia.
“Today, Abia is 28 , but we have nothing to show for it. We are very positive that when we get our judgment we get the state working again”he said.