Group accuses tribunal chair of delaying judgement on Imo Assembly seats
The African Centre for Justice and Human Rights (ACJHR) has raised concerns over what it called delay by Justice Anthony Akpovi-led panel of Justices to deliver judgements regarding the election petitions for Imo State House of Assembly seats for Isu, Orlu, and Ideato LGAs, which hearings were concluded last month and the expiration date for conclusion of the election petitions just few days away.
ACJHR said it will be alerting the National Judicial Council (NJC) and foreign missions over the activities of the Justice Akpovi at a media rally next week and also seeking that all his judgments, which used the illegal grounds of pre-election to rob people of victory are investigated, the judge disciplined and placed on visa ban to serve as deterrence to other Judges.
The group also urged NJC to investigate the alleged involvement of a former Deputy Senate President, one Ekomaru and Justice Akpovi in the circumstances behind the embarrassing judgements delivered by his Tribunal where settled issues of pre-election venue of primaries were used to either nully genuine elections or denied petitioners justice.
Recall that the three-member panel has been in the eye of the storm following a shocking judgment in which they used a pre-election issue to nullify the election of a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere of the Peoples Democratic Party (Ideato North/South), who won in a landslide victory with his opponent winning only one polling unit out of 346.
The leadership of the ACJHR in a press release signed by Comrade Abubakar Musa said it has uncovered a deliberate attempt to use miscalculation of dates to deliver a judgement that will be out of time, hence the refusal to deliver the judgment weeks after conclusion of hearings.
They also alerted of an alleged plot to use the already decided grounds of pre-election issues of primary election venue to deal a fatal blow to innocent winners and litigants.
ACJHR said they will formally petition the National Judicial Council next week of the alleged plot to refuse to deliver judgement on the State House of Assembly seats on time, as well as plot to use issue of venue of primary election again to deny PDP winners and petitioners victory by the same Justice Akpovi.
The group noted that this was worrisome as weeks ago they raised a similar alarm over messages being shared on pro-Imo government WhatsApp groups aimed at blackmailing the image of the three different panels hearing the National and State Assembly Election Petitions in Imo State by loyalists and agents of State government led by Governor Hope Uzodinma.
According to ACJHR, this eventually appeared to be true following the ruling by the panel nullifying Ugochinyere’s election.
The legal and human right group, therefore, said it was investigating information of alleged offer of promotion to Appeal Court to some of the judges delivering and using pre-election decided issues to deny election winners of their victory.
The group also said when Akpovi is done with judgments, it will be analysed and petition sent to National Judicial Council to ensure that such person is not allowed to proceed to Appeal Court to avert more damage to the judiciary.
The statement reads, “We are worried over the delay by Justice Anthony Akpovi led panel to deliver judgements regarding the Imo State House of Assembly Election Petitions. Few weeks ago we raised alarm over messages being shared on pro-Imo government WhatsApp groups aimed at blackmailing the image of the three different panels hearing the National and State Assembly Election Petitions in Imo State by loyalists and agents of State government led by Governor Hope Uzodinma.
“Our discovery was proved to be true following the shocking ruling of the Akpovi led panel on September 10th nullifying the election of a member of the House of Representatives, Ikenga Ugochinyere of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The three-member panel of judges, in a unanimous decision, held that Ugochinyere was not validly nominated by the PDP to contest the Ideato North/South Federal Constituency election held on 25th February. Justice Anthony Akpovi, who chaired the panel, concluded that the PDP and its candidate should be excluded from the supplementary election.
“It’s worrisome that a lower cour would ignore legal precedence. In December 2022, the Supreme Court declared Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere as the authentic candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, for the Ideato north and south federal constituency elections. In a judgment a five-member panel of the apex court held that there were no grounds put before it, to nullify the ticket of the party in the custody of Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, having fulfilled all the provisions of the law and complied with stipulated guidelines. Recall that recently, the Presidential Election Petitions Court (PEPC) ruled in Vice President Kashim Shettima’s case, that the issue of nominating or not nominating a candidate validly by a political party is a pre-election matter and an internal affair of the party, which can only be challenged within 14 days of such nomination at a Federal High Court. The court further, held that the Supreme Court had earlier decided that a political party does not have the right to challenge a nomination that was made by another political party.
“The ACJHR will formally petition the NJC next week over plot to refuse to deliver judgment in the state House of assembly on time and also plot to use issue of venue of primary election again to deny PDP house of assembly winners and petitioners victory by same Akpovi who obviously is working for Imo State government.”
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