FROM George Onyejiuwa, Owerri
THE Election Petitions Tribunal for the Imo North senatorial re-run has been disbanded at the behest of Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Uwajumogu and APC had raised an objection to the inclusion of Justice Saka Oyejide Falola as a member of the electoral panel are based on the objection the tribunal was disbanded.
However, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the re-run election, Chief Athan Achonu, who is challenging the declaration of the APC candidate as the winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has described the move as a deliberate ploy by the APC and its candidate to truncate the hearing of the case.
Achonu, who spoke through his campaign Director-General, Paulinus Udechukwu, insisted that the development was part of the tactics employed by the APC to ensure that his petition would not be determined.
Udechukwu said: “It would be recalled that on October 19, 2016, the election petition filed by Achonu challenging the election and return of Uwajumogu was to come up for continuation of the pre-hearing before the Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Owerri.
“But when lawyers to the parties and their supporters arrived the court, the tribunal secretary and registrar publicly announced that the tribunal would not sit because according to them, the panel had been disbanded and a new panel would be set up by the president of the Court of Appeal.
“While the senior and other counsels to Achonu were taken aback and surprised by this unfortunate development, the respondent’s lawyers were excited and happy. Indeed, senior counsel to Achonu, Ken Njemanze (SAN) had in the open court on October 11, 2016, expressed his client’s confidence in the panel that was handling the matter under the chairmanship of Justice Geraldine Ono Imadegbelo with Justice Saka Oyejide Falola and Justice Sanni Kano as members.”
Achonu pointed out that Falola had never participated in the proceedings of the panel after the objection raised by APC and its candidate and wondered why the entire panel would be disbanded.
“In a bid to frustrate and truncate the hearing and the determination of the petition, Uwajumogu and APC had objected to the participation of Falola as a member of the panel and since that objection was raised, Falola has not participated in the tribunal’s proceedings. The tribunal sat on the 11th and 17th of October 2016 without Falola participating.
“It is therefore unfortunate that a panel that had been discharging its duties impartially and independently is being disbanded at the behest of Uwajumogu and APC,” he said.