Negligence in prosecution accounts for loss of some cases filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the election petition tribunal sitting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) publicity secretary the state, Mr. Ini Ememobong made the assertion in reaction to APC’s allegation against the tribunal.
The APC had accused Justice Jennifer Mbalamen Ijohor, Chairman of Panel 2, for the National and State House of Assembly Election Petition of bias, stating that she excused herself from the tribunal on the grounds that her husband, Prof. Anthony Ijohor (SAN) is a PDP stalwart, and Secretary to the Benue State Government under a PDP governor.
The APC claimed that Justice Jennifer Ijohor’s position as Chairman of the tribunal is a clear conflict of interest in her work, arguing that she would not be able to discharge her duties as objectively as expected which has led to the dismissal of some cases.
But Mr. Ini Ememobong said the cases were dismissed for lack of diligence in prosecution, adding that so far, the APC has lost eight cases at the tribunal.
Speaking on Monday in Uyo, Ememobong said the APC lost its State House of Assembly Election Petition in six local government areas of Ikono, Nsit Ubium, Nsit Ibom, Mkpat Enin, Ibesikpo Asutan, and Ini, and two Federal Constituencies of Ikono/Ini and Uyo.
According to Mr. Ememobong, APC wrongly filed some of the cases and having past the period of filling, the party could not amend them, and therefore failed to bring the right cases to court.
He noted that it was wrong for the APC to blame Justice Jennifer Ijohor for the decisions taken by the three person panel as she was not responsible for the omissions made by APC counsel which did not comply with the provisions of the law governing election petition.
The PDP Publicity Secretary argued that the rulings of the three man tribunal panel was either by unanimity or majority, adding that the chairman’s vote is not a veto, as it carries the same weight as that of the members.
“The state chairman of APC ought to be aware that election petitions are _sui_ _generis_(of a special type) and therefore not all the rules of civil procedure apply therein. There are different laws enacted for the adjudication of these matters before the tribunal, which must be followed stricto sensu and failure to do so, usually attracts consequences.
“In the cases mentioned by Mr. Okopido, the petitioners(APC and their failed candidates) failed or neglected to apply for Pre-trial forms which is in contravention of the provisions of the extant Electoral Act and the consequence is trite- the petition must be dismissed, same being incompetent.
“On the issue of amendments sought for and denied by the three member tribunal (not the Chairman of the Tribunal), the law is specific that after the period allowed for filing of a petition, no amendment shall be made except to correct typographical errors.
“The amendments sought by the APC has the capacity to change the tone and character of their petition- this, the law clearly forbids,” he stated.