Anambra Guber: As trial begins in Awka – By Okelo Madukaife

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Obiano and Wife
Obiano and Wife

‘My lord, a woman served food to her husband containing a piece of meat. The husband protested that it is too small and the wife agreed, took the food back to the kitchen found a kitchen knife and split the meat into three pieces  and returned it toher satisfied husband’.

With this hilarious narrative drawn and duly credited to Vanguard Newspapers Mr & Mrs Cartoon Column, Emeka Ngige, SAN appearing with Rotimi Akeredolu,SAN and other as council in the petition by Senator Chris Ngige welcomed the ruling of the Anambra Gubernatorial lection Petitions Tribunal that results should be separated from voter registers and in tendering ,rather than building ‘consolidated’ polling unit files for the election documents which the council sought to tender from the bar yesterday for their clients.

Moments before at exactly 9.32 am, Hon Justice Ishaq Bello took his red chair at the Tribunal in Awka,in between two other judges  Hon Justice Akintola Akinniyi and Hon Justice John Vikoo, just back to the Tribunal after a two-week absence. The three-man Tribunal that would flag off the Tribunal in the next face of definite hearing had just been ushered in with an exaggerated triple bang on the plywood membrane cutting off the open court room with the chambers,before the bellow of ‘Coo—uu———urrt!.

The initial light preambles and greetings over, Justice Bello beckoned on the Secretary to the Tribunal to call the first case. Case no EPT/………/…. Dr Chike Obidigbo and All Progressive Grand Alliance versus Independent National Electoral Commission & and others. The others attached to Obidigbo embodies All Progressive Grand Alliance, while the others after INEC refers to Chief Willie Obiano.

Obidigbo and Obiano are in the Tribunal and have so been since December 19, 2013,on the initiative of the former to determine who between them is the candidate of APGA,even when INEC has declared the latter  the winner. On the contrary, three other petitions by Senator Chris Ngige & All Progressive Congress (APC) ,Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Comrade Nwoye, on the other hand are contending that the Elections are fundamentally flawed and ought to be cancelled by order of the Tribunal.

Incidentally, had sought an order of the Tribunal to be joined as party in the other three petitions, now consolidated and being heard together, but failed, but his case is still on. Today being the first in the row, it ought o have gone into the process of tendering of documents, but a tall lanky lawyer, whose name I could not immediately capture from the corner where I was announced appearance on behalf of Nzeoba Maduabuchi Esq, who does not falter in elocution. He had apparently faltered din attendance, but the one who held his brief had two reasons. Maduabuchi is bereaved and his elder brother will be buried tomorrow, and secondly he is in possession of documents which ought to be tendered in court.

‘In the circumstance , my lord, we seek a short adjournment till Wednesday Next Week to enable the him be her.’

Onyebuchi Ikeazu,SAN council to Obiano,had no problem accepting, ‘based on the reason only of bereavement’. But not Gboyega Awomolo, SAN. ‘On the first of the two reasons given, Awomolo urged the court to see it as an excuse since, Maduabuchi is not the lead counsel.’ Prof Dike is the Lead Counsel and if Maduabuchi is bereaved, he ought to have reassigned the case to another person and even made efforts to retrieve the document. Regarding a fallout issue of sub-poena to INEC Awomolo said the law assumes that the petitioner has the documents which he is notifying INEC to produce. He therefore insisted that ‘the three days allotted to Obidigbo for his case should read from today (Thursday March 13, 2014’.

Patrick Ikwueto, SAN interestingly appears for APGA the second set of lawyers to announce appearance for the same party,still in the matter by virtue of the fact that his application t the Tribunal to strike out APGA as a petitioner in the suit  and hence the suit has to await the final judgement to get an answer, in line with time-saving order of the Tribunal given effect through an application moved by Lead Council for Ngige & APC and backed by all other petitioners.

He asked the Tribunal to take judicial notice that Obidigbo has never attended the court since commencement of the proceedings. He urged that the case should be dismissed because ‘the petitioner is not in court, the witnesses are not in court and there is nothing to tender’. Hence, in his view, Obidigbo had failed the scheduled of the court and the matter should be dismissed. He relied on Paragraph 18,Sub-paragrahh 11(A) of the first Schedule to 2010 Electoral Act as amended.

Incidentally, Ikwueto introduced his submission on the premise of a minister in the Temple of Justice. Akeredolu stood as a fried of the court to disagree.

‘Since counsels have agreed to tender documents from the bar, and since a lawyer is in court it for Maduacbuchi,Obidigbo cannot be said to have disobeyed  the schedule of the tribunal’ Akeredolu submitted, after pointing out that Ikwueto ‘ought not to have come by way of a friend of the court because he is in the matter’.

The tribunal adjourned the matter till March 19 2014 and this gave way to the next three cases consolidated into one. An initial ding-dg had preceded  the hearing of the consolidated matter as Akeredolu had sought o e guided by the Tribunal as to the ode of consolidation given that ‘the procedure for the consolidation I know about s that all three cases will be called together and appearance will be announced together. Justice Bello urged him to to announce appearance and first. The other two case (PDP vs Obiano, INEC na dOther ) and Comrade Tony Nwoye, Versus Obiano,INEC & Others.

By this time a sea of exhibits, piled in straw bags containing exhibits had been line dup by Senator Ngige and APC. Initially Emeka Ngige, SAN, to whom Akeredolu yielded the floor to conduct tendering of materials told the tribunal that voter register and results sheets of each polling unit was to be tendered together, across the 4608 polling units I 21 LGAs of Anambra State, but a objection was raised by Onyebuchi Ikpeazu, SAN who stated that the approach amounted to ‘giving evidence from the bar’, a view shared with Ikwueto and Awomolo. The Tribunal agreed with Ikpeazu and the documents were separated.

 


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