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C/River: Election Petition Tribunals Stall

Edem Edem in Calabar reports on the inability of the Election Petition Tribunal to start work though it had received petitions and served defendants

The Election Petition Tribunals that ought to start seating yesterday in Calabar could not do so. The reasons were not technical, neither were they structural. Manipulation appears to be the culprit. The election petition tribunals in Cross River State are for now stalled because various parties and respondents have tactically refused or delayed to file their respondents’ brief while others too have refused to be served briefs. Investigations revealed that the tribunals received twenty- six petitions but only one respondent filed in brief.

For now a brake down of the petitions shows that the tribunals have received four petitions for Senate, nine for House of Representatives, eleven for House of Assembly and two for governorship petitions. The petitions according to our findings are filed by various political parties and aggrieved candidates of the parties. Most of the petitions are filed by the Labour Party (LP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Interestingly, the governorship candidates for LP Barrister Fidelix Ugbo and his APC counterpart each filed a petition against the election of Professor Ben Ayade of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. The Union reliably informed that the Governor-elect have not been served the motion as it was difficult to get him.

In a text message inviting our correspondent, the Secretary of the tribunal had said that the inaugural sitting would commenced (Tuesday) and tomorrow (Wednesday), “Please be informed that the election Petition Tribunals will be having their inaugural sitting on the following days: 12 May 2015 for National and State Assembly panel then on the 13 May 2015 for the Governorship panel”

Interestingly, when the scheduled date for the maiden seating of the tribunal opened at the Federal High Court venue for the governorship and the Industrial Court venue for the National and state Assemblies members of political parties’ mainly APC, LP and PDP were seen outside the tribunal discussing in groups with no tribunal officials around. There was literally no security at the tribunals; There was no Police officer or other security agency besides the tribunal private security. It was then it dawned on everyone present that the tribunal was yet to commence sitting.

Disappointingly, other parties denied receiving tribunal documents and some have also refused to file in their briefs even when they have received the petitioners’ brief. It was argued that the action was intentional as it was aimed at buying time. Already, it was rumoured that the sitting will commenced yesterday (Monday) but when our correspondent visited the tribunal at the Industrial court, the tribunal did not sit.

Explaining the interval, the Secretary of the tribunal Mr. John Tsok said that some respondents and parties have not filed in their responds even when they have been served. Particularly worrisome for the Tribunal is the disclosure by Tsok that the tribunal has found it difficult to serve the PDP Governor-elect, Professor Ben Ayade as he was not always around and people around have refused to accept the document.

All efforts to serve him proved abortive as the tribunal officials said he always be on the move, “We could not serve him because, we were told he always be in abroad and people around refused to accept the tribunal documents taken to them. However, other options may be adopted to avoid delay” a source hinted.

The Secretary also confirmed to The UNION that the tribunal has received twenty six cases in all with four for senate, nine for House of Representatives, 11 for House of Assembly and two for governors. “The tribunal received 26 petitions, four of them are for senate, 9 for house of representatives, 11 for house of assembly and two for governors.”, he said

Efforts to get the PDP Chairman to speak proved abortive and no party member was ready to entertain any question on the matter. For them the election has be fought and won, let the losers who are aggrieved seek redress in the open court.

The National and State House of Assembly tribunal will sometime in the week sit at the Industrial court at Murtala Mohammed Highway while the Governorship tribunal will sit at the Federal High court, some meters away from the Industrial court still on the same road.

Meanwhile,the Governor-elect. Professor Ayiade is yet to return to the country from his oversea trip to possibly give indication as to how the party will respond to the petition against his election.

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