The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Umuahia on Monday adjourned the commencement of pre-trial of the petition filed by the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Dr. Alex Otti, earlier scheduled for today to July 24.
Dr. Otti is challenging the declaration of Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu as the winner of the election and urging the tribunal declare him (Otti) the rightful winner.
The Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Usman Bwala, while adjourning sitting last Friday, said that pre-hearing of the petition would commence on Monday, July 13.
However, when sitting commenced on Monday, Chief Wole Olanikpeku (SAN), Counsel to Gov. Ikpeazu, raised an objection against the commencement of the pretrial session as announced by the chairman at the beginning of proceeding today.
Chief Olanikpeku, who based his argument on Paragraph 18 of the Electoral Act, said that his client was not served the motion for pretrial by the petitioner.
Otti’s counsel, Chief Akin Olujimi, however, punctured the argument, saying that under the said Act, service of pre-trial motion on the respondents was not mandatory. Chief Olujimi also cited a Supreme Court interpretation of the Act, saying that the process had been simplified and that the application could be informal or by motion ex-parte.’’
He insisted that the Act did not require the petitioner to put the respondents on notice. Justice Bwala later overruled Olanikpekun’s objection, pointing out that the tribunal had last Friday reserved July 13 for the commencement of pre-trial and that none of the respondents raised any objections.
He directed the clerk to immediately serve the first and second respondents, namely Gov. Okezie and PDP, following Olujimi’s plea that the respondents be served on the floor of the tribunal.
Hearing on the pending motions and the pretrial were later adjourned to July 24 and 25.
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