The Akwa Ibom Governorship Election Petition Tribunal on Friday dismissed an application filed by the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, and its governorship candidate in the April 11 elections, Governor Udom Emmanuel, challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal over the relocation of its sitting from Uyo to Abuja.
Delivering ruling on the application, the chairman of the tribunal, Justice Sadiq Umar, held that the application was “misconceived and misplaced.”
The governor, through his counsel Chief Adebgoyega Awomolo (SAN) had challenged the jurisdiction of the tribunal for sitting in Abuja, the nation’s capital, instead of Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom State, as provided by Section 285 (2) of the 1999 Constitution.
The governor ‘s counsel in his objection had argued that fair hearing had been denied his client as provided for in section 36 of the constitution.
Awomolo insisted that Section 285(2) was so specific that the tribunal shall consider proximity and accessibility to where the election was conducted, before the venue for sitting to adjudicate on any petition can be considered.
However in his ruling, the tribunal chairman,Justice Sadiq Umar, agreed with the counsel to the petitioner, Chief Woke Olanipekun, that the issue of security is recognized in law, in deciding the location where an election tribunal shall seat .
Chief Woke Olanipekun, SAN, the counsel to the petitioner, Chief Umana Umana of the All Progressives Congress, APC, had opposed the application the application challenging the tribunal’s territorial jurisdiction.
Olanipekun had contended that the issue of security which informed the relocation of the tribunal sitting to Abuja from the Akwa Ibom State capital, Uyo, is recognized in law, and very crucial in deciding the location where an election tribunal shall sit.
Justice Umar, in his ruling, agreed with Olanipekun’s submission that the issue of security is recognized in law in deciding the location where an election tribunal shall sit.
The tribunal disagreed,with the authorities cited by the governor’s counsel in the case of Ibori and Ogboru, on the ground of serious security challenges steering the tribunal in the face with the current spate of kidnappings and insurgency in the country.
The tribunal chairman held that while Ibori’s case heavily relied upon by the governor took place in 2005,the constitution has since been amended and had provided time limit for a tribunal to hear and decide a petition,unlike in Ibori’s case where there was no time limit.
The tribunal also agreed that the issue of proximity and accessibility can only come to the front burner if the security of the tribunal and litigants is guaranteed in line with the provision of the law ,that the tribunal shall sit and conduct proceedings in a conducive and secured environment.
“Therefore, the objection raised against the relocation of the tribunal from Uyo to Abuja for security reasons, was misconceived and misplaced and, hereby, rejected and dismissed in its entirety,” Justice Umar ordered.