By Haruna Salami
The Ebonyi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, on Wednesday, commenced hearing on the petition brought before it by Professor Benard Odoh of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) against the newly inaugurated Governor Francis Ogbonnaya Nwifuru.
Governor Nwifuru, the immediate past Speaker, Ebonyi State House of Assembly was declared winner by the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) in the March 18, 2023 governorship election and was sworn in on May 29.
Professor Odoh, in his petition, faulted the nomination of Nwifuru as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the last elections, saying, as at the time of his nomination, he was still a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the platform which gave him the position of the Speaker of the State Assembly in the first place.
When the pre-hearing of the Petition came up the Sharia Court of Appeal Headquarters, Abuja, the seat of the tribunal on Wednesday, Counsel to the Petitioner, Mr. J.S. Okutekpa, SAN sought for a little time to enable all parties in the matter to compare notes on the issues to be presented and determined during the proper hearing of the Petition.
According to Okutepa, “the application for the issuance of hearing notice was just served on me at about 9.41 am this morning.
“The parties involved should be given time to study the pre hearing notice and other applications. There are other applications that should be served this morning too.
“Pursuant to the rules of this court, a date of pre hearing should be given to follow formalities. So that we won’t be running to Magu Vs Sule for interpretations”, he submitted.
On their parts, Counsels to APC, Mr. Abdul Ibrahim (SAN); that of Governor Nwifuru, Barr. Roy O Nweze and that of INEC, Barr. Nnamdi; did not object to it; even when they said they were ready for pre hearing.
In his ruling, the Lead Judge, Justice Adekanye Lekan Ogunmoye, adjourned sitting till Friday, 7th June, 2023, for pre hearing, hoping that all parties would have been duly served and replied to all the processes.
The Counsel to Prof. Odoh expressed confidence that the APGA candidate will prove his case in the court in the interest of justice, fair play and development of democracy in Ebonyi State and Nigeria at large.