Imo State Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Owerri, the state capital, has dismissed the petition filed by Peoples Democratic Party, PDP governorship candidate in the April 11 elections, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, challenging the victory of Governor Rochas Okorocha of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
In a unanimous decision, the tribunal headed by Justice David Wyon, struck out Ihedioha’s petition on the ground that the application for pre-hearing notice was filed outside the timeframe allowed by law.
The tribunal saw the failure of the petitioner to file his pre-hearing notice within the seven days allowed by law as an act of abandonment of the case and subsequently dismissed it.
Governor Okorocha’s legal team had upon the commencement of hearing on the matter, filed a motion challenging the validity of the petition since the date of filing the pre-hearing notice by Ihedioha’s lawyer was time-barred.
Addressing journalists yesterday after the ruling, lead counsel to the petitioner, Chief Mike Ahamba SAN, expressed surprise at the verdict and announced that Ihedioha had directed him to go to the Court of Appeal to challenge the ruling.
He said: “That was a surprise to me because the three Supreme Court authorities I cited stated clearly that it was not a jurisdictional issue. For the Court of Appeal to have been used to override a Supreme Court decision as recent as 2013 and 2014 is a surprise to me.
“For the Tribunal to have overruled Supreme Court authorities on the issue of whether application for prehearing was jurisdictional baffles me. It was based on that, that he opted to hear the application to dismiss our petition for abandonment because it was jurisdictional, well that’s alright.
“He has ruled and we said as the court pleases but I have come out and received a telephone instruction by my client to proceed to the Court of Appeal and I intend to do so because the word abandonment has lost its meaning if a petition that has gone through prehearing session in which all parties participated can now be said to have been abandoned it then means I don’t know the meaning of abandonment again, maybe at the Court of Appeal we will get a proper definition of abandonment. This is the position.
“It is law that the rule of court does not create jurisdiction. The thing they were complaining about is paragraph 18:1 of the rule guiding election petition proceedings and the Supreme Court has said that it does not raise a jurisdictional question but the tribunal in Owerri says it does.
“The Supreme Court said it can even be done orally but they overruled the Supreme Court, saying it cannot be done orally. There is nothing I can do but to go and complain at the Court of Appeal,” he said.
Ahamba however admitted that the judgement is valid but insisted that, “I am embarrassed by it as a senior lawyer in my 41 years of practice.”
In his reaction, Governor Okorocha applauded the tribunal, describing the ruling as legally sound and “victory to all Imo people irrespective of their political affiliations” and commended Hon. Ihedioha for his effort.
In a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Sam Onwuemeodo, the governor remarked that by upholding his victory at the governorship election, the tribunal only affirmed the renewed mandate Imo people had given him.

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