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Abia tribunal drama: Otti’s lawyer claims hospitalisation *We saw him in court – PDP *No more delays – panel



The absence of Anayo Nwakodo, one of the lawyers of the Labour Party (LP) and Alex Otti, Governor of Abia State, over claims of ill-health stalled proceedings at the Abia State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal on Saturday, as the panel was forced to adjourn to Thursday, next week, even with eyebrows being raised over the claim.

The camp of Okey Ahiwe, the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), maintain that the excuse being adduced by the governor’s lawyer was a gambit to delay proceedings and mislead the tribunal by preventing witnesses called by the party from nailing the governor.

The witnesses from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), who were in the state to testify on issues surrounding the document Otti submitted in lieu of his body’s discharge certificate, could not do so because Nwakodo wrote the panel to claim that he was sick and could therefore not be part of the proceedings.

The witnesses, were called in to validate the official communications of their respective organisations previously tendered and admitted as exhibits in the suit filed by Ahiwe and PDP against the declaration of Otti as winner of the March 18 2023 governorship election.

PDP is contending that INEC through a letter signed by its Secretary, Rose Oriaran-Anthony, had confirmed that LP did not submit its membership register in Abia State as required by law and that the party failed to notify the electoral body of the date fixed for its congress hence the commission did not monitor any congress it purportedly organized.

Besides, the party also claimed that the governor did not submit his NYSC discharge certificate or exemption certificate but rather presented a reference letter to INEC while filling his governorship form.

At the sitting on Saturday, the two witnesses from INEC and NYSC, said to have arrived the state on Thursday, and were asked to return for proceedings on Saturday, 5th August 2023, could not proceed with their testimonies at the Abia State High Court, Umuahia, the venue of the sitting, as a result of the new development.

Before the postponement last Thursday, a drama had ensued, when the LP lawyers made frantic efforts to delay their testimonies, after those of the PDP, told the judges that they had duly served them with a motion to present the official witnesses of fact for their oral evidence.

The Otti camp, had claimed that they could not move on the same day that they were served as they needed time to study the motion, thus pleading with the panel to grant an adjournment to enable them do so in the interest of justice.

Though the panel acceding to their request for a postponement, shifted the matter to Saturday, specifically for the motion seeking leave of court to allow the official witnesses adopt the documents they brought through their written depositions, they sprang a fresh prayer on Saturday, for the proceedings to again be shifted because Nwakodo, who is one of the lawyers representing them wrote that he suddenly took ill and that none of the other lawyers in their team, including four Senior Advocates of Nigeria, (SANs,) could cross examine the witnesses in his absence.

This new twist saw the PDP and Ahiwe’s lawyers vehemently opposing the motion, on the grounds that the witnesses came from outside the state and that the respondents were merely playing to the gallery in their bid to frustrate the case and delay the wheel of justice.

Adding that the Otti and LP, were petrified by the weight of the evidence of the official witnesses, hence the ploy to use technicalities to delay the inevitable, they prayed for the hearing to continue, adding that time was of the essence and justice must be discharged quickly.

But, the panel after listening to both parties, again adjourned the matter to Thursday, 10th August 2023 for the witnesses to be led in evidence and warned against further use of any form of delay tactics to stall proceedings, as it was working to conclude the case within the period stipulated by the Electoral Act.

Incidentally, the PDP team, alleged that shortly after the adjournment, the lawyer, who reportedly claimed to be ill and hospitalised, was spotted around the high court premises discussing with some LP members who were at the tribunal, sparking off outrage from supporters of the opposition party, which lost power in the state, in the 2023 polls, the first time since 1999.

A PDP Chieftain who spoke on the matter, while describing the attitude of the Otti camp as “aimed at delaying the inevitable sacking of the interim government in the state, by stopping the key witnesses from testifying, added: “With defeat staring them in the face, LP and her interim Governor are doing everything to compromise tribunal members and witnesses sent to validate official documents issued by INEC and NYSC. But we will make sure that justice prevails even if it means remaining perpetually vigilant.”


Imo massacre: Armoured vehicles procured for police used to rig elections – LP



Labour Party, palpably in anguish at the slaughter of eight soldiers in Imo State on Tuesday by some rampaging gunmen, has raised questions over the whereabouts of the nine Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) Athan Achonu, it claimed its governorship candidate for the November 11 election, repaired and donated to the authorities in the state.

The party, all but called out the leadership of the Imo State Police Command, to whom they claimed the equipment were handed over, alleging that the last time they APCs were seen was during the last general elections, where they were used by members of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the party in power in the state to snatch ballot boxes for candidates in the national and state assemblies.

The claim, was made when Nick Opara-Ndudu  and Nnaemeka Onyeka Obiareri , chieftains of the party appeared as guests on The Morning Show, a breakfast programme on Arise Television to sell the candidacy of Achonu, whom they said would never have allowed the type of insecurity in the state to endure under his watch.

Both men, who said that Achonu, whose highest political office so far, was his short stint in the Senate, where he served via the 2015 election before he was removed through the courts, remained the only solution not to the insecurity, in the state and even the South East,  but the one to rescue the people from years of underdevelopment from poor leadership.

Obiareri, spokesman of the LP in the state, argued that if the APCs had been in place, Tuesday’s incident in which the military men were killed alongside some policemen and officials of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), would probably not have happened, said a check on the social media would reveal how they were used by party men of the APC for rigging the 2023 general elections.

He said: “The military men that were killed if they had armoured vehicles patrolling, they wouldn’t have been shot by those criminals. Athan Achonu, go and confirm from Innoson, paid hundreds of millions of naira to Innoson, Innoson is still alive, you people can still go and interview him, to repair nine armoured vehicles for the police. Five were supposed to be in Okigwe zone. Till today, we don’t know where those nine armoured cars are.

“If you go to Youtube, you’ll see Youtube record of members of the House of Assembly in Imo State using those APCs to carry ballot boxes. It’s there on Youtube, you can search it out. What Athan Achonu will do is very simple. Every local government area will have one humvy vehicle for the police. Police stations had been totally burnt in Imo State and Athan repaired most of those police stations.

“Then, there will be community vigilante. We’ll train those 50 youths per community – train them, equip them and arm them. They should guard their communities. When you have over 50,000 hectres of land, reclaimed from the bandits, and you have youths who are not only just farming, but who are trained to protect their communities, they’ll do the job.

“Then, we have to set up a security trust fund. Ndi-Imo are not scared. As at today, there are some communities in Imo State, where bandits – unknown gunmen, are ransacking and collecting levies from the communities. Basically, Athan Achonu will provide training, recruitment for people donated by the communities. Communities know those who are the terrible ones in their midst. And I tell you, in six months, they will flush them out.”

Opara-Ndudu, who dismissed the claim by the state governor, Hope Uzodimma that the carnage and other killings in the state were politically-motivated, blamed the governor for misplacing his priorities and failing to provide jobs for the teeming youth population in the state, questioning why nobody had been arrested and prosecuted fully in the courts if the insecurity in the state was all about politics.

Hear him: “The security problem has to do with objective conditions in the state. The young people are frustrated. The government is not making any investments in the areas that are required. We’re busy pursuing projects that are designs in deception. Look at the roads that are being done in Imo State, you know for you to deal with the problem of poverty and other economic challenges, you have to deal with the problem of infrastructure.

“In Imo State, the government has dedicated all of its time and half of its time to reconstructing federal roads without any attention – little or no attention paid to the rural areas. If you go to length and breadth of Imo State – Ngor Okpala, Ezinifte Mbaise, even in the governor’s local government – everywhere in Imo State, you find that the rural areas are looking desolate and abandoned.”

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Police find body of missing female student dumped in the bush, vow to get killers



Operatives of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), command, have vowed to fish out the killers of a university student, Blessing Karami, whose body was said to have been picked up from the bush days after she was declared missing on September 11.

The FCT police, which released the painful news on Thursday, said in a statement by its spokesman, Josephine Adeh that the remains were found in the woods in the Karimu area of the city.

The police spokesman acknowledged that her disappearance was reported to the police authorities last,  Thursday, September 14 added that 26-year-old Blessing, a student of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), was declared missing after leaving her place of work in Garki, Abuja.

She said in the statement: “The body of Blessing Karami Moses, a 26-year-old woman who had been missing since September 11, 2023, was tragically discovered in a wooded area in Karimo. Her disappearance was reported to the authorities on September 14, 2023,” the statement read.

She said Commissioner of Police, FCT, Haruna Garba, had directed that command should conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident, adding: “While we are working closely with the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) to facilitate the respectful retrieval of the decomposed remains acknowledging the sensitive nature of this task, we will continue to provide updates to the public as our investigation progresses.”

Adeh, a Superintendent of Police (SP), also commiserated with Blessing’s family and loved ones over the incident.

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Ogun cult massacre: DSS raid home, pick up PDP lawmaker, five others



Damilare Bello Mohammed, a serving member of the Ogun State House of Assembly (OGHA), is currently telling operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) his side of the story, after he was picked up over his alleged involvement in the rival secret cult clashes that occurred in Sagamu town.

Mohammed, recently elected on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to represent Sagamu State Constituency 1, was picked up on Wednesday by the agency over the incident in which at least eight persons were killed last weekend during the violent clash in the town, alongside five other suspected cultists allegedly involved in the cult violence.

The five other suspects; Debbo Animashaun, Bamidele Saheed, Ismaila Onitire, Adewale Otesanya and Tobi Owoade, were arrested by the DSS operatives during a sting operation after a tip-off at the early hours of Thursday within the residence of the lawmaker.

Lekan Adeniran, spokesman to Dapo Abiodun, the Ogun State governor, announced the development in a statement on Wednesday, saying the secret police tracked the six suspected cultists to the official residence of the lawmaker.

Accusing the lawmaker of providing shelter to the cultists, Adeniran, said in the statement, that the suspects were presently undergoing interrogation in DSS custody after many dangerous weapons, including guns, were recovered from them.

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