PDP Chieftain Asks Appeal Court President to Constitute Election Petition Tribunal for Imo

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Tobi Soniyi in Abuja

Senator Athan Achonu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has called on the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa to constitute the National and State Houses of Assembly Election Tribunal for Imo State.

Addressing journalists in Abuja monday, Achonu expressed disappointment at the disbandment of the panel earlier instituted to hear petitions from the election into the Imo North senatorial district.

The Imo born politician had represented Imo North in the Senate from June 2015 until the election was nullified and re-conducted to bring in Senator Ben Uwajumogu (APC).

Achonu said he was compelled to write Justice Bulkachuwa, because time was of the essence.
Achonu, in the petition which he sent to the Appeal Court President through his lawyer, K.C.O. Njemanze, said intelligence report available to him suggested that his opponents might take undue advantage of the disbandment of the panel.

After the conduct of a re-run election when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Ben Uwajumogu winner, Achonu had filed a petition before National and State Houses of Assembly Petitions Tribunal listing the INEC, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Uwajumogu as respondents.

However, the tribunal was disbanded. He was then denied the opportunity to argue his petition.
He therefore wrote to the Appeal Court President calling on her to constitute another panel with immediate effect.

Achonu’s petition against the disbandment of the tribunal which had Justice Geraldine Ono Imadegbelo as chairman reads in part:

“While the pre-trial session was still going on, our client continued to receive information and reports of clandestine and or subterranean moves by his opponents and their supporters to truncate and or frustrate the hearing of this petition, and the grand design including to disband the panel, inordinately delay the setting up of a fresh panel and where a fresh panel, it shall be at such a time that the petitioner would be stampeded and prevented from calling necessary witnesses to establish his case.”

The petition reads further:
“We were all surprised when on October 10, 2016, the Secretary to the panel orally announced in court that the panel has been disbanded by your lordship.

“Out client is worried and saddened by this development in view of information and intelligence reports available to him on the grand design of his opponents and recent developments which include the non setting up of a panel to hear and determine his petition many days after the first panel was disbanded,” the petition stated.

Achonu stated that “ election petitions are time sensitive and must be heard and determined within the time stipulated by law.”

He argued that the delay in setting up a new panel would adversely affect him and was not in the interest of justice.

He demanded a fair trial of his petition “within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial panel as guaranteed by the constitution.”