INEC Lead Counsel’s Ill Health Stalls Proceedings At Rivers Election Tribunal

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Proceedings were stalled at the Rivers State Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja on Friday, following news of the ill-health of lead counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commissions (INEC), Onyebuchi Ikpeazu (SAN.)

Ikpeazu’s indisposition also temporarily stalled INEC’s defence of the outcome of the governorship election it conducted in Rivers State on April 11, 2015 which began two days ago.

The electoral body was supposed to call more witnesses at the sitting but could not go on following the absence of its lead counsel.

The Commission had called one Ebikoru Tebekaemi who told the tribunal on Thursday that he was the electoral officer that superintended over the governorship poll at Obiakpo Local Government Area in Rivers state, but denied any knowledge of ballot snatching alleged by the All Progressives Congress, (APC), and its gubernatorial candidate in the state, Dakuku Peterside.

At the resumed hearing of the Tribunal on Friday, Alexs Ejieseme, who stood in for Ikpeazu told the Tribunal that he arrived to the court early in the morning given the usual practice since the Tribunal began sitting but was told that Ikpeazu had cold.

“My lord, I left my office to the court this morning and got here on time as our usual practice. I called the lead counsel (Ikpeazu) that I was already in the court and he managed to pick his call and told me that he was fighting a cold.

“I was able to get through to him the second time and he told me that he will not be able to make it to the court today. We all spend all through the night preparing documents and our witnesses for the day proceedings.

“My lord, because of this development, I am praying the court for an adjournment till Monday, September 21.”

The counsel to the petitioners, Akinlolu Olujimi (SAN); the PDP counsel, Chris Uche (SAN); and Wike’s counsel, Emmanuel Ukala (SAN), did not object to the prayer.

It will be recalled that the APC and its candidate in the April 11 governorship election in the state are asking the tribunal to nullify the return of Wike as winner by INEC. The petitioners had on Wednesday closed their defence after presenting 58 witnesses to prove their case.

Justice Suleiman Ambrusar, the tribunal chairman, after listening to the submissions of counsel in the matter, reminded the electoral body of the time constraints the Tribunal had and urged them to prepare all their witnesses by the next adjourned date.

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