Bende fed constituency: Tribunal admits exclusion of AA logo as evidence
By: Femi Mustapha
There is apprehension in Bende federal constituency following the admission as an exhibit by the National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal, the deposition by the Action Alliance, AA, candidate, Mr. Ifeanyi Chukwuka Igbokwe, that his party’s name and logo were excluded from the ballot box.
This was contained in a statement by the AA Party and made available to the media in Kaduna.
The statement stated that Igbokwe and his party Action Alliance are challenging the election of the Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, and members representing Bende federal constituency, Rt. Benjamin Kalu.
The Petitioners want the tribunal to set aside Kalu’s election over the alleged exclusion of the party’s name and logo on the ballot papers.
AA argued that its candidate if not excluded ought to have won the February 25 national assembly election in the federal constituency.
A certified true copy of a protest letter from AA to INEC where the party complained about the exclusion was tendered in evidence by the National Secretary of AA, Ambassador Suleiman Abdulrasheed.
Subsequently, despite objections by the Respondents’ legal team, the Hon. Justice Samson Paul Gang-led three-man panel admitted the documents as exhibits.
The AA National Scribe told the tribunal that Hon. Justice Z. P Abubakar of the Federal High Court Abuja, had in a judgment on suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1759/2022, delivered on November 4, 2022, ordered INEC to immediately upload and publish Igbokwe as the validly nominated AA candidate but INEC refused to do so.
Counsels to all Respondents after objecting to the admissibility of the document said they would give reasons during the submission of the final written addresses.
The AA candidate, Igbokwe, who also testified before the tribunal, during cross-examination, told the tribunal that the non-inclusion of his party’s name and logo, and his subsequent non-participation robbed his victory at the poll.
But Counsels to the Respondents argued that the AA candidate was not validly nominated by his party.
The hearing on the matter was adjourned till Friday for continuation.
Other members of the panel include Hon. Justice Kabiru Ibrahim Ahmed (Member 1); and Hon. Justice Abdulfatai Baba Sekori (Member 2).
Similarly, the tribunal admitted as exhibits nine documents tendered by the legal team of the Labour Party candidate in the February 25 national assembly poll, Chief Frank Chinasa, who also testified as a star witness before the court.
Some of the documents deposed by the LP candidate’s lead Counsel, Yunus Ustaz Usman, SAN, included the 1st Respondent’s birth certificate; his West African Examination Council (WAEC) Certificate; First Degree Certificate issued by the University of Calabar; National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Certificate; among others.
The LP candidate’s lawyer argued that while some of the certified true copies of the documents deposed before the tribunal bore Osisiogu Benjamin Okezie, others bore Kalu Benjamin Okezie, and Benjamin Okezie Osisiogu, respectively.
After his submissions, the tribunal admitted all nine documents and marked them as exhibits.
Counsel to Kalu, Kelvin Nwufo, SAN, objected to the admissibility of the documents as exhibits but said he would give reasons for his objections at the submission of his final written address.
Similarly, Counsel for the 2nd Respondent, the All Progressive Congress, APC, Mr Vigilus Nwankwo; as well as his Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, counterpart, Ogochukwu Onyekwulije, all objected to the admissibility of the documents, promising also to adduce their reasons for objection at the submission of their final written addresses.
The tribunal also admitted as exhibits the result of the election, which the Petitioners alleged was manipulated by the 3rd Respondent in favor of the 1st and 2nd Respondents.