The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Umuahia on Monday adjourned to July 24, the commencement of the pre-trial of the petition filed by the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
Dr. Alex Otti, the APGA candidate in the April 11 governorship election, is urging the tribunal to nullify the declaration of Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu as the winner of the election and declare him the rightful winner.
Earlier on Friday, the Chairman of the tribunal, Hon. Justice Usman Bwala, while adjourning sitting, said that the pre-hearing of the petition would commence on Monday, July 13.
However, when sitting commenced on Monday, Chief Wole Olanikpeku (SAN), lead Counsel to Ikpeazu, raised an objection to the commencement of the pre-trial as earlier scheduled by the tribunal.
Olanikpekun said that his client was not served with the petitioner’s application for pre-trial as well as Forms CF007 and 008.
He argued that the petitioner must be put on notice before pre-trial would commence and cited Paragraph 18 (1and2) of the Electoral Act to buttress his point.
Counsels to INEC and PDP, Messrs Levi Uzoukwu, SAN and Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, respectively, also spoke in the same vein.
Their arguments were, however, countered by Otti’s lead Counsel, Chief Akin Olujimi, who contended that the said provisions did not make it mandatory for service of pre-trial motion on the respondents.
Olujimi also cited a Supreme Court interpretation of the Act which, according to him, indicates that motion for pre-trial could be made informally, including the use of cell phone, or by motion ex-parte.
“’If it can be done by ex-parte motion, it means that the application by the petitioner for pre-trial cannot be put on notice to the respondent,’’ he said.
The tribunal chairman overruled Olanikpekun’s objection, recalling that the tribunal had on Friday, set July 13 for the commencement of pre-trial “without any objections by the respondents’’.
Bwala later ordered that Okezie and the PDP be served with the application and forms on the floor of the tribunal, following Olujimi’s plea for the tribunal to consider Olanikpekun’s alibi.
He adjourned sitting to July 24 and July 25 for hearing of all the pending motions and commencement of pre-trial of the petition, after the respondents were openly served. (NAN).

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