Akwa Ibom State Election Petition Tribunal in Abuja yesterday ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission to bring the electoral materials used for the April 11, 2015 governorship election to the commission’s headquarters in Abuja.
The move is to enable the All Progressives Congress and its candidate in the poll, Umana Umana, to‎ inspect them.
Umana and his party had complained to the tribunal that it was unable to enforce an earlier order granted to them by the tribunal to inspect the materials in Uyo due to security concern.
‎The Sadiq Umar-led three-man panel tribunal, in its ruling on the application by Umana and the APC, ordered INEC to move the materials to Abuja within 10 days.
The tribunal also directed security agencies to provide adequate protection for the transportation of the electoral materials from Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, to Abuja.
Umana and the APC had filed their petition before the tribunal seeking the nullification of the victory of Governor Udom Emmanuel of the Peoples Democratic Party at the April 11 poll.
Emmanuel, the PDP, the Independent National Electoral Commission, the Akwa Ibom State Resident Electoral Commissioner and the Nigeria Police Force are the five respondents to the petition.
Umana and his party had argued that their application for the relocation of election materials from Uyo to Abuja was not novel as it was done by previous governorship election tribunals in the case of Osunbor v. Oshiomhole; Agagu v. Mimiko; Doma v. INEC and most recently in the case of Adeymi v. Maleye.
‎The tribunal, also yesterday, rejected an application by the petitioners seeking an order striking out Udom’s response to the petition for being filed out of time.
Governor Emmanuel’s lawyer, Paul Usoro, had urged the tribunal not to close its eyes to the fact that his client was just few hours late outside the statutory seven days allowed by law to file his response to the petition.
Justice Umar, in a ruling, held that striking out the Emmanuel’s reply would amount to injustice, adding that the tribunal was out to do substantial justice to the petition.
Though the tribunal conceded to the submission of the petitioners’ lawyer, Dayo Akinlaja, SAN, that the Emmanuel filed his reply out of time, but it held the governor could not be shut out since he had shown good cause by filing it even if it was out of the stipulated time.
Justice Umar ruled, “It is clear from paragraph 47 to the 1st schedule and section 145(1) of the Electoral Act 2010 and paragraph 45 (4) of the 1st schedule that all applications must be in writing.
“We are also aware of the content of paragraph 47 that the 1st respondent did not file his response within the seven days period. The facts before us are clear on this.
“Nevertheless, we have equally read Okechukwu v. INEC and it is our position that for substantial justice to be done in this petition is to allow the 1st respondent an extension of time to file and serve his response to the petitioners.
“The aim of the tribunal is to see to it that whether at the end, it can be said that justice was done to the petition.”

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