LEGAL FIREWORKS: GOV. OTTI MOVES THE TRIBUNAL TO DISMISS OKEY AHIWE, PDP PETITION
It was fireworks and sweating today at the Abia State Gubernatorial Election Petition Tribunal sitting at the Federal High Court complex, as Governor Dr. Alex Otti’s Legal Team lead by Ken Ahia, SAN moved the tribunal to dismiss PDP and Okey Ahiwe’s petition for lacking in merit.
At the resumed hearing of the Petition today, PDP and Okey Ahiwe’s Counsel- Uche Ihediwa SAN informed the Tribunal that the matter was adjourned until today for commencement of pre-hearing. All the parties in the Petition took turns to indicate their preparedness for the pre-hearing session which sets the stage for the commencement of hearing in the matter.
Consequently, the Chairman of the 3-man panel indicated to the representatives of all the parties to adopt their Answers to the Pre-hearing Information Sheet as well as issues for determination. It was after the adoption of these processes that trouble started for Okey Ahiwe and his Legal Team.
Things got to a head when the lead Counsel to Alex Otti- Ken Ahia SAN informed the Tribunal that he had an application seeking to dismiss Okey Ahiwe’s Petition which was ripe for hearing having not be opposed by Ahiwe and his Team of Lawyers. Uche Ihediwa SAN however countered Mr. Ahia, arguing that they had filed a Preliminary Objection to the competence of the Preliminary Objection seeking to dismiss the Petition.
Mr. Ahia SAN however submitted to the Tribunal that the application he seeks to move was not opposed by the Petitioners as the only way to oppose an application was by filing a counter affidavit in line with the provisions of Paragraph 47(4) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act. Having not filed any Counter Affidavit, Mr. Ahia submitted that his application must be deemed as unchallenged and thus liable to be granted.
After entertaining some arguments by the Petitioners’ Counsel, the Chairman of the Tribunal granted Mr. Ahia the permission to argue the application which he argued amidst a tensed atmosphere in the packed court room. Mr. Ahia in his submissions to the Court argued that the Petition was frivolous, vexatious and bereft of any competence. He urged the Tribunal to dismiss it.
Mr. Ihediwa on his part moved the Petitioners’ Notice of Preliminary Objection to the competence of Dr. Alex Otti’s motion and urged the Tribunal to dismiss it.
In reacting to the application which Mr. Ahia told the Tribunal was a separate application, he informed the Tribunal that they had filed a Counter Affidavit in opposition to the application which had also been served on the Petitioners. He proceeded to argue same and urged the Tribunal to dismiss the Preliminary Objection. Mr. Ahia adumbrated to the Tribunal that a Notice of Preliminary Objection cannot be used to respond to another Preliminary Objection. He also referred the Tribunal to a decision of the Supreme Court where a Notice of Preliminary Objection seeking to terminate a suit was defined as a Motion which must be responded to, contrary to the misconceptions of Okey Ahiwe and PDP’s Legal Team.
After an exhaustive hearing session, the Chairman of the Tribunal adjourned ruling in the applications until the judgement stage in line with the provisions of the Constitution, and adjourned further hearing in the Petition until 11th July 2023.
Other Counsel who appeared in the matter were, K.C. Nwufor SAN for the INEC; Anayo Nwakodo for the Labour Party