From Judex Okoro, Calabar
There is palpable tension among the political class as the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in Cross River state is set to deliver judgment on Tuesday in Calabar.
The Tribunal has reserved judgment in a Suit No. EPT/CR/GOV/02/2023
seeking to oust the Governor of Cross River State, Bassey Otu, after adoption of counsels written addresses on August 14, 2023.
The suit was jointly instituted by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) governorship standard bearer, Prof. Sandy Onor, and his party against the election of Senator Bassey Otu and the Deputy Governor, Rt Hon. Peter Odey of All Progressives Congress (APC).
Barely six weeks after the adoption, the Secretary of the tribunal, Mr Akawu Bambu, issued a statement in Calabar at the weekend that the panel would deliver judgment on Tuesday, September 26.
In the final written address, counsel to the petitioners, Dr. J. Y. Musa, SAN, had told the court that evidences extracted under cross-examination of the respondents goes to fortify the case of their petition and also confirm the falsity of the evidence presented by the second and third respondents (Governor Otu and Peter Odey).
Musa said the case of the petitioners is not allegations of forgery against any of the respondents (Otu and Odey) and so all the authorities they cited to the effect that they needed to call witnesses from institutions are non-sequitor, rather their case is that the second and third respondents lied on oath.
He insisted that the second and third respondents (Otu and Odey) brought documents to show that they forged documents.
“In the process of trying to say they did not lie on oath, they opened a Pandora box where we saw the discrepancies.
“I, therefore, urge the tribunal to declare the votes of the second and third respondents wasted because they were not qualified to stand for the election and declare the petitioners winner of the elections,” he stated.
On his part, the lead counsel to the second and third respondents, Prof. Mike Ozekhone, SAN, urged the court to dismiss the petition “for being frivolous, un-meritorious, gold-digging, distracting and for constituting an abuse of the court process.”
He added that “withdrawal of grounds two and three by the petitioners sounded a death kernel to their own petition because it was an admission that the elections were validly held.”
On his part, counsel to the first respondents (INEC), K. O. Balogun, urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition and also adopted Professor Ozekhome’s submission in respect of the qualification of the second and third respondent.
However, a few hours away to judgment day, fear has gripped both All Progressives Congress (APC) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) stalwarts and supporters across the state over the outcome of the case.
While both die-hard supporters are optimistic that their party would come out victorious, some are worried at the inconsistencies that are coming out of the Tribunals across the country, fueling speculations that judgment may go either way depending on the ability of counsels to prove their cases before the Court.
An APC chieftain, Chief Asuquo Ededem, from Calabar South, said:”I expect nothing but victory for Governor Bassey Otu and our party. We are very optimistic that the Court would re-affirm Otu’s mandate given to him by Cross Riverians.
“By tomorrow, I am certain we shall click glasses and merry because we worked hard for Otu and Odey’s emergence at polls.”
On his part, a former member of PDP Campaign Council in the state, Ntufam Emmanuel Ojong, from Ikom, said: “Tomorrow is a day for the party to reclaim its mandate from APC. And anybody who had followed the Tribunal from the beginning would know that our party have a good case.
“Our lawyers put up a good argument and backed it up with documents and witnesses to prove our case beyond doubt. So, we expect victory at the Court and it is only then that justice would have been done to our case.”
But a legal practitioner, who spoke off record, said Court cases of this nature are very dicey because most times the judges deal with technicalities and other legal matters that are beyond mere elections, calling on all parties to call their supporters to order to ensure peaceful co-existent during and after the Tribunal.