Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahia
The Election Petitions Tribunal for the re-run election in Abia State monday rejected Senator Mao Ohuabunwa’s claim that he was yet to be duly served the motion on notice in the petition filed by a former Governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, who was the flag bearer of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA).
Ohuabunwa had in a motion filed by his counsel, Mr. Ukpai Ukairo, told the tribunal that the time allotted to him to respond to the petition filed by his opponent had not started running since he was not aware of the petition and its content.
But in ruling on the motion, the tribunal chairman, Justice James Abundaga, rejected Ohuabunwa’s claim, saying that there was compelling evidence indicating that the first respondent was duly served the motion on notice by the bailiff.
The court bailiff had in an affidavit filed before the tribunal insisted that she served Senator Ohuabunwa the motion on notice on Easter Monday before the commencement of his thanksgiving service to celebrate his victory in the senatorial rerun.
The tribunal agreed that the Abia North Senator was actually served the motion on notice at 10.20am on the said day before the commencement of the thanksgiving service at the Arochukwu stadium hence the Senator’s claim in his different affidavits that he was in his country home receiving friends at the time in question “are contradictory.”
The tribunal chairman raised a poser: “How did the first respondent know about the matter if he was not served; the only reasonable conclusion is that he was served.”
He said that Ohuabunwa’s claims collapsed against the strong evidence given by the bailiff, noting that the first respondent’s claim “that he was not served at 10:20am because he was in church thanksgiving service and again in his counter affidavit that he was at Atani Arochukwu attending to friends are inconsistent averments.”
The tribunal, which formally held its inaugural sitting on Monday, also granted Kalu’s motion requesting to be granted leave to inspect electoral materials used by the independent national Electoral Commission (INEC) in conducting the senatorial rerun.
In his address to mark the inaugural sitting the tribunal chairman Justice Abundaga, assured that the tribunal would be fair to all parties in the matter before it and would not dwell on technicalities.
According to him, the duty of the three-man tribunal “is to meticulously consider all the grievances brought before us and the responses to those grievances and where such grievances are justified correct them and where found to be frivolous to say so.”
Justice Abundaga urged the parties to cooperate with the tribunal and avoid anything that could drag the proceedings while he warned journalists not to indulge in “false and sensational news reporting” that could cause breach of the peace.