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Jubilation in A/Ibom As Tribunal Strikes Out Akpabio/Udoedehe`s Case
27 Feb 2012: Iniobong Ekponta

THE camp of Governor Godswill Akpabio was yesterday thrown into wild jubilation in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State’s capital. This was as a result of the tribunal’s judgment, which ended the protracted April 26, 2011 governorship case involving the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) led by John James Akpan Udoedehe.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Akpabio winner of the poll in 29 out of the 31 councils, while Udoedehe of the ACN was declared to have won in only two councils including Uyo and Uruan.

But Udoedehe petitioned Akpabio, INEC and the PDP, claiming he won in 23 councils. His petition was thrown out on technical grounds, having exceeded the 180 days allowed by law for such matters to be filed.

The Appeal Court in Calabar, Cross River State, was to follow suit and dismissed the petition, forcing Udoedehe to take the matter to the Supreme Court, where the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Dahiru Musdapher, on November 14, 2011, ordered that the case be returned to the tribunal for a fresh trial on merit.

A new tribunal constituted to handle the matter commenced hearing on the case in January 2012, and elected to abide by the CJN’s order to hear the matter on its merit until a counter order by the same Supreme Court at the weekend, asking the tribunals to dispense of all election cases that overstayed the 180 days as stipulated by law.

And in a swift decision yesterday, the chairman of the tribunal, Justice Ayuba Kwajafar, of the Maiduguri, Borno State High Court, dismissed the petition, saying the tribunal lacked jurisdiction to further entertain the case.

Acting in strict adherence to the latest Supreme Court’s order and the judicial precedents in All Nigeria Peoples’ Party (ANPP) Mohammed Goni versus Alhaji Kassim Shettima, Kwajafar was quick to align with counsels to Akpabio, Nsima Ekere, INEC and PDP, to discontinue the case.

The tribunal was to deliver ruling today on application filed by ACN, urging it to allow for the continuation of documents’ inspection that was terminated at the end of the inaugural tribunal.

Counsel to ACN, Dapo Akinosun, asked the tribunal to proceed on the ruling and continuation of proceedings in the case, but lead counsel to Akpabio, Duro Adeyele (SAN), countered, arguing that the tribunal has no powers to further hear the case, citing the Supreme Court’s order at the weekend. ‘We will continue to follow the constitution until it is amended, that a petition must be concluded 180 days from the time of its filing.

After 180 days and not even one hour after, the tribunal would no longer have the jurisdiction. ‘So, the Supreme Court has said that any pending case that is not decided within 180 days is a dead petition and the petition here dies’, he said. Counsel to ACN, Akinosun, having lost the battle for hearing their petition, said they would seek the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the section of the constitution on the matter.

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