Perhaps, afraid of outcome of inspection of election materials used in the presidential and national assembly assembly elections of February 23 in Akwa Ibom State, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Dr. Chris Ekpenyong have asked the court to set aside the order granting Godswill Akpabio and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) to inspect materials used during the election.
Senator Akpabio, who currently represents Akwa Ibom North West (Ikot Ekpene) Senatorial District and contested on the platform of the APC, is challenging the outcome of election.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Ekpenyong of the PDP as winner of the election.
The suit has Senator Akpabio as petitioner while Ekpenyong, PDP, INEC, Returning Officer and Resident Electoral Officer, Mr. Mike Igini, are respondents.
The Tribunal had earlier granted Akpabio access to the materials in ex-parte application filed by the legal team of the Senator Akpabio.
At the resumed hearing Tuesday, two pre-hearing applications earlier filed by Ekpenyong and PDP were held.
In the applications filed by Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), counsel to Ekpenyong and adopted by counsel to other respondents, the applicants sought to dismiss Akpabio’s petition and set aside the order which granted him access to the election materials in the custody of INEC.
Agabi also prayed the Tribunal to set aside the petition on grounds of lack of jurisdiction.
Counsel to the PDP, Umoh (SAN) prayed the Tribunal 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 process of the election materials has been prejudiced” and that the “only grounds of obtaining an order must be by motion on notice”, which, according to him, the respondents failed to file.
Umoh also prayed the Tribunal to award a cost of N500,000 against the petitioner, but was unanimously overruled by the three-member panel.
Responding, counsel to the petitioner, Sunday Ameh (SAN), said the claim by the PDP that the inspection process of the election materials has been prejudiced was unsustainable and lacking in merit.
He queried: “Having been invited to the inspection, in what way has the order of inspection granted been prejudiced?”
While noting that the respondents’ “objections are bereft of merit”, Ameh prayed the Tribunal to grant a short adjournment to enable his team study all the respondents’ applications.
Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Akanbi, urged counsel to all the parties and their supporters to cooperate with the Tribunal in order to ensure that justice is expeditiously served.
Chief Agabi, on behalf of counsel to the parties at the Tribunal, thanked the judges and pledged the cooperation of the Bar with the panel during the duration of the tribunal.
The Tribunal adjourned the hearing and reserved ruling on the prayers of the respective parties for a yet to be announced date.
Speaking to reporters at the end of the sitting, counsel to the APC, Adekunle Oyesanya (SAN), said the APC and Akpabio had a good case having won the senatorial election.
He said they were confident that justice would be served at the Tribunal.