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Suspense continues in Abia as tribunal fixes August 10 for consolidated petition



The state of suspense over who eventually will get the final nod to run the affairs of Abia State continued yesterday as the Abia Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, sitting in Umuahia concluded its pre-trial hearings in the petition filed before it by the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the April 2015 election, Dr. Alex Otti, challenging the declaration of Okezie Ikpeazu of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as winner by the Independent National Election, INEC.

With this development, the tribunal has consequently fixed August 10 for the commencement of hearing in the consolidated petition.

Before the tribunal rose from session, counsel for Ikpeazu, Mr Adeniyi Akintola (SAN), had, in his motion, argued that the petitioner’s application for pre-trial was filed out of time and described the application as ‘’premature, invalid and premature” and prayed that it should be struck out.

In corroboration, counsel for the PDP and INEC, Mr Paul Ananaba (SAN) and Mr Hargler Okorie, respectively, reinforced Akintola’s submission and urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition on grounds of incompetence. They further urged the tribunal to rule on the motion before adjourning Friday’s sitting, saying that the ruling should not be deferred till the end of hearing as earlier ruled in other motions.

In response to their arguments, counsel for Dr. Otti, Mr Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN), reminded the tribunal that the application for pre-trial was duly filed on June 19, 2015, contrary to the Akinlola’s assumption that it was filed on June 22.,2015.

Owonikoko brought some humour to the tribunal hall, when he reminded the tribunal that the June 22 date referred to by Akintola was in respect of a petition both of them handled in the Imo governorship petition and has nothing to do with the Abia situation . He therefore urged the tribunal to strike out Akintola’s motion.

In his ruling, the chairman of the tribunal, Justice Usman Bwala, said that ruling in the motion filed by counsel for Ikpeazu would be taken along with the judgment, to save time . He said that pre-trial report had been given to all the litigants and fixed August 10 for the commencement of the trial of the petition.

He advised the petitioner to prepare to call his witnesses and warned against interjections from lawyers in the audience.

Otti, a former Group Managing Director of Diamond Bank Plc and his APGA party have also lately had a running brush with the camp of Gov.Ikpeazu and the PDP over an alleged attempt on his life at his Abuja residence and the move by the state to borrow N30billion naira at prevailing commercial rates.

Pix: Dr. Alex Otti

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