As the May 29 handover date draws closer, the Akwa Ibom State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Uyo has commenced the pre-hearing of petitions challenging the declaration of the Peoples Democratic Party’s candidate, Pastor Umo Eno, as the winner of the March 18, 2023 governorship poll held in the state.
On Friday, May 26, 2023, a three-member panel headed by Honourable Justice Adekunle Adeleye attended to the joint petitions of the All Progressives Congress and its candidate, Obong Akanimo Udofia, and the Young Peoples Party and its candidate, Senator Bassey Akpan, during the pre-hearing session.
Notably, all the lead counsel for both the petitioners and the respondents were in attendance at the tribunal.
For the APC and Udofia, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Dr Hassan Liman, led the counsel while Tunde Falola led the YPP and Bassey Akpan’s legal team.
Also for the respondents, the Independent National Electoral Commission and first respondent has Offiong Offiong, SAN, as its lead counsel, Paul Usoro is leading the legal team of the Second Respondent and Governor-elect, Pastor Umo Eno, while Nnamonso Ekanem is lead Counsel for the third Respondent, the Peoples Democratic,
During the proceedings, the first respondent’s lead counsel, Offiong, identified three issues for determination before the Tribunal, which include whether the Tribunal has jurisdiction to inquire into and determine the issues of qualifications that had been covered by the judgement delivered by the Superior Court.
Fielding questions from newsmen after the proceeding, the second respondent counsel, Usoro, SAN, said, “They (petitioners) have raised an issue on the qualification of Umo Eno. That is an issue that has been litigated at the Supreme Court.
“And we are saying this tribunal cannot sit as a trial Court to start looking at those issues again. It is something that has already been done. Such issue should be thrown out,” he said.
On his part, Falola, a YPP lawyer, simply responded, “They (the respondents) are challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal, and we have filed our responses. I don’t want to speak beyond that as the matter is already before the Tribunal.”
The three-member panel adjourned the APC petition to June 5 and the YPP petition till today Saturday 27, 2023 for continuation of Pre-hearing.