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Abia Tribunal: Issues arising from miscarriage of justice *Part One

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By Eze Chikamnayo

On Friday,  the 6th day of October,  2023, the reconstituted Governorship Tribunal that oscillated between Government House – Hotel Damgrette and the Court delivered it’s very predictable and widely considered  “Perverse ” Verdict in favour of their host, Mr Alex Otti.

Abians ignored them as they didn’t  disappoint those who were convinced ab-initio that their stay in Umuahia was a mere rehearsal.

Now that we are happily done with that unfortunate episode, let’s quickly examine some of the real issues  brought before the Tribunal which can neither be swept away nor sacrilegiously sacrificed on the altar of brinkmanship.

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First, it is not the intendment of the Law that the Law should give with one hand and also take away with the other hand.

The Electoral Act clearly provided for witnesses to be subpoenaed and those witnesses can only be subpoenaed during the course of the tribunal trial, that’s after the petitioner has filled his petition.

The law did not contemplate and could not have contemplated a situation whereby witnesses of the adverse party would willingly depose to statements of oath for petitioners – to have enabled them file same along with their petition at the time of filling.

The above absurd and impossible scenario is what the trial tribunal held in their curious judgement which is clearly, to every discerning legal mind, an irrefutable error.

Ordinarily, once the final result of an election is declared, a party has just 21 days from the time of the declaration of results to file his petition.

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The question which the tribunal failed to answer is whether a petitioner can get a tribunal which hasn’t started sitting to issue a subpoena on an adverse witness or party to compel such witness to make depositions for frontloading?

For instance, in the  Abia Gubernatorial Elections case, INEC is the 1st Respondent in the Petition. There’s therefore no way PDP or Chief Ahiwe would have gotten the Tribunal to  issue a Subpoena to get INEC to depose, sign and do all the administrative routine of the  subpoena and hand it over to PDP to enable them to file (all within 21 days) when the tribunal is yet to start sitting. That is not possible.

The tribunal judges very well know that a Subpoena is a document used to COMPEL witnesses to come to court – whether recalcitrant  witnesses or those who refuse to come UNLESS COMPELLED BY LAW.

The PDP and Chief Ahiwe took advantage of this provision of the law and brought the INEC witnesses to court yet the court unexplainably ruled that such witnesses should have been brought to depose at the time of filling!

By the wrongful exclusion of the official witnesses who came on subpoena, the tribunal willfully denied itself the benefit of their evidence both documentary and oral and in so doing, the petitioners were denied the benefits accruable from those evidence which inadvertently has evidently occasioned a glaring miscarriage of justice for which there should be an appeal.

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Sadly, it is for such perplexing ground above that those who believe that tremendous amount of water has passed under the bridge in this Otti matter are predicating their position. This is a very sad story for the judiciary.

Another area of interest is what transpired regarding the Kano judgement which co-incidentally was put in evidence by Alex Otti and the Labour Party as Respondents – they were the ones that initialled that particular angle.

As we speak,  there is in existence, a Judgement in rem and in personna and subsisting to the effect that candidates of Labour Party were disqualified and that they had none for the elections.

Mr Alex Otti as shown by him as the Second Respondent, interestingly made efforts to appeal against the Kano Judgement in order to be hurriedly sworn in as Governor.

But that particular appeal is no longer subsisting by virtue of the operation of the Constitution and that leaves us only with the judgement of the Federal High Court Kano.

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Invariably, the fact is that before the Law, Mr Alex Otti was not even a candidate during the gubernatorial elections for Abia State held on the 18th of March.

That is the irrefutable effect of the subsisting judgement of the Federal High Court Kano which remains and will continue to remain subsisting since the Constitutional window created for its appeal has forever elapsed.

In their decision, the Abia Gubernatorial Elections Tribunal again apparently glossed over the  grave implication of the Kano judgement whereas they are supposed to have given effect to that judgement which is subsisting. Moreso since that is the cardinal ground in contention which is that Mr Alex Otti was at the time of the elections not qualified.

Remember that the said particular matter that resulted in the judgement of the Federal High Court Kano was initiated even before the election so it is a pre- election matter; already pending at the time.

The tribunal ought to have correctly given effect to that subsisting judgement against which there is not and can never be an appeal again because constitutionally the time allowed for any appeal on the matter has expired.

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Thirdly, the Electoral Act provided for declaration of results at different levels insitu. That is wherever that level of election or collation took place.

If election takes place in the unit, it MUST be DECLARED there. Then the result must be taken to the Ward Collation Center and it MUST be collated there. Thereafter, the collated ward results must be taken to the LGA Collation Center where they will again be collated and also ANNOUNCED and DECLARED.

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In the case of Obingwa Local Government, when the results which has  duly passed through the Unit,  Ward and LGA collation stages, were now brought to the final/State Collation Center at Umuahia, the cantankerous Returning Officer, one Mrs  Nnenna Otti, for reasons best known to her, contrary to the provisions of the law decided that she wasn’t going to use the results ALREADY DECLARED AND ANNOUNCED IN OBINGWA LGA in the final collation at the state level.

She then brazenly took away the results to Abuja to be “RECOLLATED” ostensibly because she’s not comfortable with the outcome.

This illegal, hide and seek moves she did without notice to the political parties, again, contrary to the clear provisions of the Electoral Act and INEC Guidelines which makes it mandatory for the agents to witness what is happening.

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After this  strange “RE – COLLATION EXPEDITION”  in far away Abuja, surprisingly no Agent of any political party witnessed or signed the new   “Abuja Results ” Nnenna Otti and her cohorts concocted and brought back after a whole three days!

In a very condescending manner, unscrupulous Mrs Nnenna Otti, the  obviously biased Returning Officer, came back and used the strange results to announce final scores thereby ROBBING THE PDP OF THEIR ADVANTAGE  ACCRUING FROM THEIR KNOWN STRONGHOLD AND DENYING THEM LAWFUL VOTES  already collated at all levels.

And that again, is one of the major reasons why the petitioners, Chief Ahiwe and the PDP complained that there was substantial non-compliance with the provisions of the law and then that Alex Otti and Labour Party did not win by majority of the votes cast.

In deciding this issue, the tribunal drew an instant explosion of noise and uproar in the Court Room from even journalists, when they magically held that the petitioners didn’t prove that the Obingwa LGA results were taken to Abuja –  A FACT OF PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE WHICH THE RESPONDENTS ALREADY ADMITTED TO IN THEIR OWN DEPOSITION EVEN VIA THEIR STAR WITNESS AND WHICH WAS REPORTED IN VERY MAJOR MEDIA OUTLETS ACROSS THE GLOBE!

Such glaring, “overzealous”,  miscarriage of justice in a FACT that would have entirely altered the outcome of the trial is another fundamental flaw.

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With utmost respect to the Tribunal, this very perplexing finding made by them on the  issue of the manipulation and exclusion of LAWFUL VOTES already collated from Obingwa LGA is to say the least, untenable.

Cases in the Tribunal are fought principally on pleadings and the petitioners (Ahiwe/PDP), pleaded that the Obingwa results, was collated,  declared and announced at the LGA Collation Center at Obingwa and that when it was brought to Umuahia, the State Returning Officer, the reckless and incompetent Mrs Nnenna Otti suspended collation and took the results to Abuja for doctoring.

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Interestingly, at the tribunal, both the Labour Party and Alex Otti admitted that they did go to Abuja with the Collated Obingwa LGA Results.

In fact,  Mrs Nnenna Otti had a deposition prepared for her attached to the reply of the respondents wherein she gave graphic details of what made her take the already collated Obingwa LGA Results to Abuja for  alteration.

So, the question of whether the Obingwa Results were taken to Abuja is not in dispute and it need not be proved any longer  because in Law,  A FACT THAT IS ADMITTED NEED NOT BE PROVED!

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So, for the Tribunal to turn round and hold that the petitioners did not prove that the Obingwa Results were taken to Abuja is like a huge joke ; the 8th wonder of this world  and a travesty which has occasioned a gross miscarriage of Justice in this case.

As always, Alex Otti is miserably daft and ignorant. His petty reactions to what some people has since described as “prepared” and “prepaid” is pathetic.

After the widely rejected Judgement , he danced naked in the streets taunting his opponents to the divert monies they intend to spend on appeals for building roads in their villages.

Yet, it is this same diminutive Akex Otti who after the 2015 gubernatorial elections went all the way up to the Supreme Court three good times and crisscrossed all other available courts in Nigeria in his futile attempt to truncate the Electoral mandate of his predecessor.

By hastily mocking the APC and PDP after this very controversial and curious judgement, he is nonsensically gloating in futility over nothing.

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An election tribunal lacks the power to ignore or set aside the decision of the Federal High Court. Also for you to subpoena a witness, you must situate the witness within a petition. INEC cannot claim that they monitored Abia Labour Congress when in actual fact, there was no congress to be monitored

These and many other grounds which are still available for legal scrutiny at the Appeal Court and the Supreme Court is the reason why the premature gyrations of Alex Otti is a sign of deliberate amnesia.

Judgements are not supposed to be transactional. However, it’s unfortunate that certain judicial pronouncements which often collapse when subjected to dispassionate legal scrutiny have become common place in our clime.

Unexplainable, politically motivated judgements dent the judiciary and whenever the dispensation of justice is colored by pecuniary interests. It certainly spells doom not just for our hallowed judiciary but for the entire society.

…to be continued.

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Chikamnayo, former Information Commissioner, writes from Aba

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Obi: Lagos-Calabar coastal highway, not now, may take 20-30 years

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Presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), in the February 25, 2023 election on Monday, raised issues with the controversial Lagos-Calabar coastal highway awarded by the Federal Government to Hitech Construction, at the whopping amount of N13trillion, saying such a gigantic road project was not needed now at a time most of the Federal roads across the country are death-traps.

Obi, former Governor Peter Obi, who broke his silence for the first time over the project, since the news was first broken that the Federal Government had since awarded the contract, while acknowledging its potential benefits, expressed serious concerns about its pricing and raised questions regarding the timing and prioritization in the current Nigerian situation.

The LP boss, who highlighted the pressing issue of numerous uncompleted roads across the country, emphasising their role in economic growth and regional connectivity, maintained that the government should invest such huge resources to deal with the various roads across the country which were in various stages of disrepair, rather than plunging it into one road.

He listed critical roads in various zones, many of which have been under construction for several years due to poor funding and planning to include:

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  1. NORTH-WEST Abuja – Kaduna – Zaria – Kano Road, – Sokoto – Funtua – Zaria Road, Kano – Hadejia Road, Kano – Katsina Road , Zaria – Funtua – Shema – Tsafe – Gusau – Talata – Mafara – Sokoto Road , Kano – Kwanar – Danja – Hadejia Road
  2. NORTH-EAST Kano – Damaturu – Maiduguri Road – Mubi – Maiduguri Road, Nguru – Gashua – Bayamari Road, Gombe – Biu – Numan Road, Dikwa – Marte – Monguno Road, Potiskum – Fika – Bajoga – Gombe – Biu Road, Mayo Belwa – Jada – Ganye – Tongue Road, Tumu – Pindiga – Kashere – Bashar – Wase – Wamba – Nassarawa Road.
  3. NORTH-CENTRAL Abuja – Lokoja – Okene – Auchi – Benin Road, Ilorin – Jebba Road, Kabba – Omuaran Road, Suleja – Minna Road, Makurdi – Gboko – Yandev – Katsina-Ala Road, Buruku Bridge across Katsina River.
  4. SOUTH-WEST Lagos – Badagry Road, Ibadan – Ife – Ilesha – Osogbo Road, Itoikin – Ijebu Ode – Ibadan Road, Ibadan – Ilorin – Jebba – Mokwa – Bokani Junction Road, Abeokuta – Ibadan Road, Ikorodu – Shagamu Road, Ado – Igede – Aramoko – Itawure Road, Ajasse Ipo – Offa – Erinle – Osun State Border Road.
  5. SOUTH-EAST: 9th Mile – Oturkpo -Makurdi Road, Enugu – Port Harcourt Road, Onitsha – Awka — Enugu Road, Onitsha – Owerri – Umuahia Road, Bende – Arochukwu – Ohafia Road, Okigwe – Afikpo Road, Nsukka – Obollo Afor – Ehamafu – Nkalagu Road, Oba – Nnewi – Okija Road.
  6. SOUTH-SOUTH: Benin – Sapele – Warri Road, East – West Road, (Warri – Kaiama – Ahoada – Port Harcourt – Eket – Oron) Yenegoa Road, Junction – Kolo – Otuoke Road, Sapele – Agbor – Ewu Road, Benin – Akure – Ore – Ife Road, Ikot Ekpene – Aba – Owerri Road, Jattau – Fugar – Agenebode Road, Bodo – Bonny Road with Bridge across Opobo Channel, Port Harcourt – Onne Road, Agbor – Sakpoba – Ogharefe Road, Odukpani Junction – Itu – Ikot Ekpene – Umuahia Road.
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With the Federal Ministry of Works allocating a capital budget of N892 billion for 2024, in addition to funding from multilateral loan projects and other sources, Obi questioned the wisdom of embarking on another massive project that may not be completed for the next 20 or 30 years.

He warned against exacerbating the problem of abandoned, incomplete projects that do not contribute to economic growth, urging the prioritisation of existing uncompleted projects, while emphasising the need to allocate resources towards repairing and completing vital infrastructure.

The former governor, who stressed the importance of focusing on the urgent needs of the people and ensuring that investments serve the collective good of the nation, advocated for prioritising the completion and rehabilitation of existing infrastructure over embarking on colossal new projects with uncertain completion timelines, adding that fiscal discipline and strategic prioritisation in addressing the country’s infrastructure challenges, must be paramount to leaders of the country.

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Fubara, Rivers assembly return to trenches! Lawmakers override gov on LG laws

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The seemingly unabating schism between Siminalayi Fubara, Governor and members of the Rivers State House of Assembly, assumed another stage on Monday, with the lawmakers deciding to pass the local government Amendment Bill into law without the assent of the state governor,

The Assembly, in apparent defiance of the state High Court’s order directing the status quo on the issue of elongating the tenure of elected local government officials, which formed part of the amendment, went ahead to screen as well as confirm the chairman and other members of the Assembly Service Commission in the spirit of the new law.

Martins Wachukwu, spokesman of Martin Amaewhule, Speaker of the assembly, conveying the development in a statement, said the lawmakers made the decision at its 159th Legislative sitting held at the Assembly Quarters in Port Harcourt, which has since served as their sitting venue since the demolition of the main House of Assembly quarters by Fubara, last year.

Stating that Fubara declined assent to the Local Government (Amendment) Bill initially passed into law on March 13, 2024, by the House, the statement, said the lawmakers were bent on performing their constitutional duties and therefore decided to override the governor’s decision on the matter by a two-thirds majority.

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The statement read: “Determined to perform its Constitutional duties, the Bill was represented by the Majority Leader, Hon. Major Jack and debated upon by Members. Thereafter, the House in accordance with the provisions of Section 100(5) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as altered, which empowers the House to override the Governor, where he withholds his assent; the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Martin Amaewhule put the question, and with a two-thirds majority vote, the House agreed to override the Governor and passed the Bill into Law.”

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In another development, the House screened and confirmed nominees for the position of Chairman and Members of the Assembly Service Commission, including: Sampson Worlu as Chairman, Abinye Blessing Pepple, Blessing Belema Derefaka, Gbaranen Robinson, and Dorcas Amos as Members.

The statement recalled that on March 22, 2024, the House passed the Rivers State Assembly Service Commission (Amendment) Bill into Law, wherein the House donated back to itself the power to appoint the Chairman and Members of the Assembly Service Commission.

The statement added: “On a sad note, the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Amaewhule, announced the demise of Mr Lucky Amadi, the husband of the honourable Member for Obio/Akpor Constituency II, Hon. Emilia Lucky Amadi, and stated that Members would pay a condolence visit to their colleague.”

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BREAKING: Five days after sacking Ganduje, Kano judge reverses self

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Justice Usman Mallam Na’Abba, of the Kano State High Court, on Monday, reversed himself five days after making an order barring Abdullahi Ganduje National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), from parading himself or performing any official function in that capacity.

In vacating the order made ex-parte, following a plea by Haladu Gwanjo and Laminu Sani Barguma, who claimed to be the Chairman and Secretary of the APC Ganduje Ward in Dawakin Tofa Local Government area of the state, for the suspension of the former Governor of the state from his present job, Na’Abba said he relied on fresh arguments made on the matter.

The fresh applications were brought by Glory Adah, a litigation secretary at the law firm representing the APC boss in a motion ex-parte, accompanied by a 27-paragraph affidavit in support, and a written address dated April 22nd, countering the grounds of his previous orders.

Na’Abba, who adjourned the case to April 30 for the hearing, said: “An order of interim injunction is hereby granted staying the execution of the order of interim injunction contained in the ruling of this court delivered on 17h April 2024 directing parties to maintain status quo ante as at the 15th day of April 2024 in relation to the suspension of the 4th respondent/applicant from the 1st respondent by the Ganduje Ward Executive Committee pending the hearing and determination of the 4th respondent/applicant motion on notice.”

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