By Chioma Onuegbu, Uyo
The National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Akwa Ibom state has fixed May 13 to complete pre-hearing on the petition seeking to nullify the election of Dr Christopher Ekpenyong as Senator-elect for Akwa Ibom North West.
Chairman of the three-man panel, Justice W. O. Akanbi during pre-hearing session on Friday noted that owing to the nature of the case which is bound by timelines, it would be in the interest of the parties to allow them to proceed to the main subject of the case while the ruling on the preliminary objection will come as part of the final judgement of the tribunal.
He, therefore, adjourned till Monday, May 13, 2019, for completion of pre-hearing and advised parties to review their petitions and streamline their grounds and witnesses for timely adjudication and determination of cases.
The member representing Ikot Ekpene senatorial district,, Senator Godswill Akpabio of the All Progressives Congress, APC who lost his re-election bid to the Senate on February 23, 2019 National Assembly poll, had approached the tribunal to challenge the outcome of the election that declared his opponent, Dr. Christopher Ekpenyong of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP as winner.
However, during the pre-hearing on Friday, Counsels to Ekpenyong, the Senator-elect prayed the tribunal to nullify the petition of Akpabio seeking to upturn his (Ekpenyong) election.
Former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN) and Mr. Solomon Umoh (SAN), who represented Ekpenyong and PDP (first and second respondents) submitted that the petitioners’ prayer for the election of Ekpenyong to be nullified was based on inconsistent grounds.
They noted that the grounds and reliefs sought in the matter were “so incongruous and inconsistent” which renders the petition incompetent to stand as a legitimate document in the tribunal.
Therefore, they prayed that Akpabio’s petition be dismissed in its entirety and the case struck out.
But in his argument, Mr. Sunday Ameh (SAN), Counsel to Senator Akpabio said the submission by the legal team of the respondents’ amounted to an “unwarranted attack on the petition, unsupported either by fact or law.”
According to Ameh, the Electoral Act supports the doctrine of mutual exclusivity which allows the combination of grounds as filed by the petitioner.