Isaac Job, Uyo
The National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state has rejected the application filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) seeking to vacate the order granted by the tribunal authorizing Senator Godswill Akpabio to inspect all election materials.
Tribunal Chairman, Justice W. O. Akanbi had on April 2 granted an ex parte order to Sen. Akpabio and the All Progressives Congress (APC) to inspect materials in the custody of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
PDP’s lawyer, Solomon Umoh (SAN) had filed an application before the tribunal seeking to set aside the petitioner’s request for forensic analysis of election materials as well as dismiss all reliefs granted to the petitioner because the inspection of the election materials has been prejudiced.
He also argued that the only grounds of obtaining an order must be by motion on notice which according to him, the respondents failed to file.
However, in his ruling Chairman of the tribunal, Justice W. O. Akanbi, declared that the PDP’s application for the reversal of the inspection order was an act alien to law.
Justice Akanbi agreed with the submissions of counsel to Sen. Akpabio, Sunday Ameh (SAN) that Chris Ekpenyong and the PDP suffered no prejudice having been invited to be part of the inspection process.
He said the PDP counsel only succeeded in “hell-raising technicalities to waste the time of the tribunal, asserting that Akpabio’s demand to inspect the electoral materials and the tribunal order granting same were in line with the provisions of Section 151 (1 & 2) of the Electoral Act.
The tribunal chairman while dismissing PDP’s argument that the ex parte order for the inspection of election materials does not align with the provisions of the Electoral Act, noted that any order from a court of competent jurisdiction in relation to the inspection is valid because the Electoral Act does not specify which order should be accommodated or rejected.
He further declared that the PDP’s motion for an order to stop the forensic analysis of the election materials was lacking in merit because any party in court is at liberty to state any of its preferred method of inspection.
“Any party is at liberty to adopt any method of inspection. The parties involved in an election can chose to bring in forensic experts. The inspection can also be manually done.
Even if the inspection is done with laboratory equipment, the law is okay with that,” he noted and likened the PDP’s action to “crying wolf where there is none.”
Speaking to newsmen after the ruling, Mr. Patrick Umoh, who stood in for the petitioner’s lead counsel, said the ruling had deepened the nation’s judicial practice.
The ruling is seen as a major boost for Sen. Akpabio to reclaim his mandate in an election which he believes was won by him. The tribunal adjourned further sitting to May 10.