INEC, Obiano ask Tribunal to Dismiss APC, PDP Petitions
It was a hectic day at the Anambra State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal presided over by Justice Ishaq Bello where leading Counsel for the Executive Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano, Dr Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, Counsel and other leading counsels Chief Ademoyega Awomolo,SAN, for INEC and Chief Patrick Ikwueto, SAN, for All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) asked the tribunal to dismiss for lack of merit the respective petitions filed by Comrade Tony Nwoye and PDP, and Senator (Dr) Chris Ngige of APC who came second and third in the November governorship elections.
Urging the tribunal to dismiss the entire petitions filed by Nwoye and Senator Ngige, during the adoption of the written addresses of both the respondents and petitioners in the case, Friday (May 23, 2014), Dr Ikpeazu, SAN told the Honourable Justices that the petitioners did not discharge the evidential burden placed on them and could not substantiate their allegations and therefore did not prove their case.
Ikpeazu submitted that the pleadings of the petitioners that the third respondent (Obiano) used a forged document could not hold just because the petitioner said so, insisting that INEC in exercise of its duties confirmed the authenticity of the Voter's Card used by the respondent. Arguing his case with fervour Dr. Ikpeazu, Counsel to Chief Obiano maintained that; 'a document issued by INEC and confirmed as authentic cannot by any stretch of the imagination be considered forged because the petitioners said so.'
The third respondent's counsel further argued that the petitioners having conceded that there was transfer and that it was the INEC certified voter's card that was used by the respondent in the election, the claim that the respondent is still a registered voter in Lagos is not tenable because it was resolved by section 13 of the Electoral Act which specifies how a person is assigned to a polling unit, issued with new voter card, does retrieval of old voter card as well as sends new card through the Electoral Officer who issues the new card to the applicant. These, the learned counsel, submitted were duly complied with by the respondent.
Ikpeazu concluded that having been unable to produce a register now which they claim still exists other than the copy given before the elections in November 2013, more so when he surmised, it was the job of the Electoral Officer to delete names of those whose application for transfer has been duly processed.
Also adopting his written addresses and reply, Patrick Ikwueto, SAN Counsel for APGA urged the tribunal to dismiss the entire petitions filed by Nwoye, Ngige and PDP for lack of merit since the petitioners did not prove any of the allegations raised in their pleas. Ikwueto called for the dismissal of the petitions insisting that, "the allegation of non-compliance made by Nwoye as the petitioner did not substantially affect the outcome of the elections."
Similarly, INEC's counsel, Chief Ademoyega Awomolo, SAN, also called for the dismissal of the petitions filed by Nwoye, Ngige and PDP for the reason that the petitioners did not offer any evidence of non-compliance to enable the tribunal to nullify the election. The INEC counsel argued that this is one petition full of sentiments and emotions, wondering why the petitioners wanted INEC to expend the law.
Earlier in his submissions after adopting his written address, Emeka Ngige (SAN) admitted that the suit filed by his client had suffered deficiency as 'the only person to explain the issue of forged certificate is INEC itself,' lamenting that the person or agency to defend issue of disqualification of the 3rd respondent on the basis of the forged document is the commission, but here INEC ran away.''
On his part, counsel to PDP, Ajana had argued that all grounds canvassed by the parties were not on point of law, and that an infringement of an electoral act is enough to nullify the election, contrary to the argument of Ikpeazu and the INEC lawyer that non-compliance must substantially affect the outcome of the election for it to qualify for the call for nullification.
The presiding Justice and Chairman commended all the parties for their maturity during the proceedings. He said that they will communicate all the parties when the judgment is ready on or before 19th June 2014, having started hearing on Monday 20th December 2013. The set timeline is in compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act as Ammended which set 180 days period for hearing and determination of all election tribunal cases.