By The Evangelist News Wednesday June 21, 2023.
The Governorship Elections Appeal tribunal sitting in Uyo in the petition of Senator Bassey Albert and the Young Progressives Party, YPP against the election of Pastor Umo Eno as Governor of Akwa Ibom State, has been adjourned to July 5,2023.
This follows arguments at the resumes hearing of the petition, by the defense team that since there was no evidence of insecurity in the location of the tribunal, then the relocation application by the petitioner was a ploy to prevent the petitioner from being cross examined.
A lawyer with the petitioners, Dr. Sunny Usoroh who was spotted in the courtroom by the tribunal was asked if he was threatened at any point during proceedings the previous day, and he answered in the negative.
“My lord I am here today as a friend of the court, and not as a member of the petitioners’ legal team. But throughout yesterday, no one threatened me and I went home peacefully”, he narrated.
I feel it is better we hear from them in case there is a genuine reason for their inability to come here today”, said the bewildered Sunny Usoroh to the tribunal.
The defeated candidate of the Young Progressives Congress, YPP is said to have written to the President of the Court of Appeal, seeking the relocation of the tribunal from Uyo, citing insecurity.
At the resumed hearing on his petition Senator Albert who was expected to close his defense today, Wednesday by testifying before the court, boycotted the proceedings along with his legal team, and rather communicated his desires to have the tribunal relocated to the federal capital territory.
His counsel, Ahmed Raji and Tunde Falola were all absent in court during the proceedings.
But Paul Usoro,SAN, speaking on behalf of the 2nd defendant, Pastor Umo Eno urged the court to issue hearing notices to the petitioners and their legal representatives before the next adjourned date.
The defense counsel maintained that since the petitioners had nearly ended their case, it was pertinent the first petitioner comes before the tribunal to be cross examined.
“My lord, it won’t take us up to two hours to finish cross examination of the 1st petitioner and then we can commence our defense.
“I wish to also intimate the court the courtroom is nearly filled and it obvious most of the people here are supporters of the petitioners and we believe they can go and tell their leaders that the court is safe. I can even see my friend, Dr Sunny Usoro who made an appearance for the petitioners yesterday”, Paul Usoro said.
Also reacting, Offiong Offiong(SAN) one of the counsel to the 1st defendant, who said he was yet to sight a copy of the petition, urged the court to discountenance such claim, as there was no security issue to have warrant such Petition.
“I have not seen a copy of the petition. I want it to be on record that I am very safe here”.
“I woke up this morning and I saw so many missed calls from my senior brother. He asked me if I was safe, that they heard that there was chaos in the tribunal and that several cars weee set ablaze. I told him they were merely unfounded rumours”, Offiong said, adding that perhaps Bassey Albert and his team also heard the same rumour and concluded that there was insecurity.
Also reacting, Tayo Oyetibo (SAN) told the court that Tuesday’s proceedings at the tribunal was peaceful, and at the end of the day’s proceedings he and others including the petitioner passed through the same road to their various destination.
“I’m safe. We did not see any dead body, as the petitioner left before us. They drove out before we drove out. I passed through that road; there was no threat to any life. I want the court to give them sufficient time to decide whether to come back”.
Also addressing the court, Mr. Essien Udom(SAN) reminded the 3 member election Petition panel that Akwa Ibom has been adjudged the safest State in Nigeria, and wondered how the petitioner arrived at such claim especially when the location of the tribunal is at a security zone which has the Governor’s lodge, Judiciary complex where the Chief Judge of the State has her office, the Chief Judge’s Official residence and a Police Barracks at same axis.
“My Lord, this neighborhood happens to be the safest place you can ever think of in Akwa Ibom State. It’s more like the Three Arms Zone you have in Abuja. The Governor’s lodge and office, Chief Judge’s residence, Police Barracks, the Traditional Rulers Council, among others. My Lord we are very safe here”.
Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Adekunle Adeleye adjourned the matter to 5th July 2023.
He further directed that the tribunal hearing notice be served on the petitioners and their lead counsel at their addresses in Uyo and Abuja.