Tribunal Relocation: Uneasy Calm in Akwa Ibom As PDP Chieftains Kick

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From Mfon Ekefre, Uyo

President, Court of Appeal, Zainab Bulkachuwa
President, Court of Appeal, Zainab Bulkachuwa

The relocation of the Election Petition Tribunal from Akwa Ibom State to Abuja has not gone down well with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) faithful in the state, who are pointing accusing fingers at the leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) within and outside the state as the masterminds of the action.

This was the unanimous submission of all speakers at a media briefing called by the state PDP after the news made the round that the tribunal’s sitting has been moved to Abuja. Some of the PDP leaders who spoke at the event include Senator Anietie Okon, Senator Effiong Bob, Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien, Rt. Hon. Ndueso Essien and Mr. Larry Esin. They all expressed reservations over the movement, saying it is a ploy to influence the tribunal’s verdict against the PDP and in favour of the APC.
In a text delivered at the event to state the position of the PDP concerning the issue, they claimed that the tribunal’s relocation violated the constitution. According to Section 285 sub-section (2) “There shall be established in each state of the federation one or more election Tribunals, which shall, to the exclusion of any court or tribunal, have original jurisdiction to hear and determine petitions as to whether any person has been validly elected to the office of Governor or Deputy Governor as a member of any legislative House.”
The PDP leaders stated: “This is an outright connivance and conspiracy based or their earlier vow that they will take over key Niger Delta states, including Akwa Ibom.
“We are tempted to ask why this relocation design to create confusion should be ordered, what is particular about Akwa Ibom State to warrant pressure and special interest encircled the election tribunals here?
“How do our people cope with the attendant high costs/risks of traveling hundreds of kilometres to move people and materials in furtherance of their obligations arising from on-going election petitions?
“Having stretched their propaganda machinery to the units to garnish the scheme, they have now settle to manipulating judiciary process to achieve their goal.
“They wondered why Akwa Ibom State, which over the years had remained a haven of peace and good example of a secure state as compared to other states in the federation before, during and after general elections.
“We consider it rather shocking that an otherwise peaceful and hospitable state like Akwa Ibom could be falsely labelled an insecure state, a state unlike most states in the north-east where a clear case of insurgency exists and the scourge of Boko Haram has blighted the region. The lumping of Akwa Ibom State into that category is deceitful and amounts to an affront for common sense and good reasoning.
“The party chieftains maintained that Akwa Ibom people have continued to conduct their affairs peacefully and there is no record of any arm of government, in this particular, the judiciary, coming under threat or any breach of her sanctity, independence and safety.
“Though we have absolute confidence in the judiciary, we still have cause for reservations given the desperations of some vested interest, who have vowed to take over the apparatus of government in the state by hook or crook.”
The PDP chieftains, along with concerned Akwa Ibom Elders, therefore “plead with the judiciary not to succumb to their schemes or become a tool in the hands of these undertakers in scuttling of popular will of the people as express in the April 11 governorship Elections.
“As leaders, we hereby warn that the patience of our people should not be taken for granted. People must desist from actions that may make a mockery of our determined efforts to deepen the ethos of our democracy or cause the relative peace that currently prevails in the region to give way to a return to a phase we thought had successfully been managed.”

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