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Omehia Vs Amaechi: Omehia Gives Evidence …As Tribunal Strikes Out Offending Paragraghs Of Petition…Wood Dealers Garner Support For Omehia

Sir. Celestine Omehia, governorship candidate of All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, in the April, 2011 governorship election in Rivers State, has maintained that justice would vindicate the stand of the party at the election tribunal where he lodged a complaint about the election.
On Wednesday, February 15, 2012, the election tribunal headed by Justice Abdullahi Liman, ruled that the paragraphs in the petition brought by Omehia, alleging criminality by some individuals but who were not joined in the petition be struck out.
Sir. Omehia was called to the witness box after the ruling.
Thereafter, ballot papers were tendered by his lawyer, J.C Ezike and they were admitted.
However, the INEC manual for the conduct of the election and some other documents sought to be tendered by the applicant, Sir Omehia, were objected to by the respondents and rejected by the tribunal because they were not certified true copies, including form EC8A which was given to Omehia’s counsel by the respondents and tendered by him.
“This is exactly what we received from them. We tendered them as what we received. We urge your lordship to receive them as what we received from the first and second respondents (Amaechi and Ikuru), otherwise it means there was no election, J.C Ezeike submitted, as the respondents argued against it because of lack of certification.
Dappa Adoo, E.C Ukala and Nathaniel Oke, all SANs, counsel for Governor Amaechi and Tele Ikuru, INEC and PDP, cross-examined Sir. Omehia when he got to the witness box.
The tribunal adjourned till Thursday February 16.
Sir. Celestine still brimmed with confidence despite the ruling of the tribunal.
Here him as he spoke to newsmen immediately after the adjournment.
“As far as we are concerned, the court has taken a decision. We have no choice than to abide by it. Yet, it will not affect the outcome of our case. We have taken a decision and we are following it step by step and by His grace, we shall get justice.
“The truth about it is that there was no election because there were crises all over and I made it clear when he (counsel for INEC) asked whether I was in Opobo and other places. I said there were crises all over the state.
“The issue of how many parties participated. Of course, 28 registered political parties participated in the election and yet when the results were declared, 29 parties were declared. How did the 29th party come in? How did the 29th party that has no governorship candidate get votes? It may only have been possible by allotment of votes.
“There crises all over the state and they allotted votes and in the process of allotting votes they ended up giving non-existing votes to non-existing party or a party that did not participate on the ballot and that is our concern. How can a party that is not on the ballot get votes?
“The party was not there and was not registered and yet it got votes. It simply means that there were only allotments of votes as a result of the crises as already mentioned.
“I am surprised that the INEC lawyer could deny the signature of the Administrative Secretary of INEC. We paid all the statutory fees and got the certified true copies from the Admin Sec of INEC and we spent so much money photocopying all these things.
“Unfortunately the INEC lawyer said it did not comply, the signature did not comply with the evidence act. Very, very unfortunate. But then it is also good for us because when we tendered the result sheets that were submitted to us by the 1st and 2nd respondents, that is, Rotimi Amaechi and Tele Ikuru, they also rejected them. It simply means that in the whole of this process, there was no election, there was no result.
“There would not be any result. And if there is no result to be tendered in court it simply goes to testify that there was no election in Rivers State.
On February 8, 2012, motions were filed by Governor Chibuike Amaechi and INEC, urging the election tribunal re-trying the petition filed by Sir Celestine Omehia, challenging the victory of the governor, to strike out some paragraphs of the submission by Sir Omehia.
Spirited arguments against it were made by Sir. Celestine Omehia’s counsel J.C Ezike, but the tribunal accepted to hear the motion and Friday, February 10, 2012 was fixed to hear the motion.
When the tribunal sat on Friday, I. A. Adedipe, SAN, said his application was supported by a 15 paragraph affidavit and a written submission.
He submitted that the some paragraphs of Sir. Celestine Omehia’s petition dressed some persons in criminality but failed to join them in the suit.
“I urge your lordship that those paragraphs as they stand, without the parties mentioned, cannot stand,” Adedipe pleaded with the tribunal as he urged the judges to strike them out.
“Ezike’s reply was that not joining them should not defeat the petition. But we say, led them be struck out. Election matters in their nature, is sui generis. I urge your lordship to strike out the paragraphs. If an election officer in his conduct of elections commits an offences, you can sue INEC, but if others who are not agents or servants are mentioned, they are not covered by law,” Adedipe further stated.
Defending his own motion to strike out the offending paragraphs, E. C. Ukala, SAN, counsel for INEC, said his motion was supported by 8 paragraph affidavit and a written submission.
He said according to section 157 of the electoral Act, 2010, the petitioner is bound to join those whose conduct constituted crime and that the absence of such people in the petition would deprive the court the capacity of dispensing fair hearing.
“The person joined could defend himself and be exonerated. If he is not joined, he cannot,” Ukala stated, as he told the tribunal that it would affect their own right to fair hearing.
Nathaniel Oke, SAN, counsel for PDP, said he supported the arguments of Adedipe and Ukala.
Replying, J.C Ezike said both parties were wrong and that their references to cases referred to the striking out of particular allegations, not the entire paragraphs.
“Our objection is that it is academic. They have not stated the offences alleged. They did not narrow it down,” he stated.
He said there is no merit in their motions, that they are premature and that since PDP has been made a party, all others are their agents and that the fair hearing principle should not be over-stretched.
“If we allege that their staff did something, it is for us to prove,” he concluded and urged the tribunal to conclude the pre-hearing.
The tribunal adjoined ruling till February 15, 2012.
Meanwhile, as the April 2011 governorship election battle between Sir Celestine Omehia and Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi rages on at the election tribunal, members of the Real Port Harcourt Wood Dealers Cooperative have openly declared support for Sir. Omehia.
Members of the group now meet every Thursday to pray and fast for the victory of Sir Omehia at the tribunal and even visiting motherless babies’ homes in a bid to find favour from God
According to Mr. Reginald S, Jaja, President of the cooperative, the group is an NGO fully in support of Sir. Celestine Omehia.
He said they pray always to see to the success of APGA and that they are sure of victory.
Hear him, “My name is Mr. Reginald S. Jaja. I am the President of Real Port Harcourt Wood Dealers Cooperative. We are serving as NGO and supporting All Progressive Grand, Alliance, APGA, as a party, to see that Sir. Celestine Omehia becomes the governor of Rivers State. Since then we have not relented. We have been fasting and praying since after the elections.
“As you can see today, the crowd gathered to pray for the success of APGA at the election tribunal that is going on. Since then we have been doing it and my secretary and elders are here.
“We are all not wood sellers. It is a co-operative, an NGO. We have some of them selling at mile one, some are doing other types of businesses. Some are workers who have joined us to see that this NGO stands.
“Why we called it Real Port Harcourt Wood Dealers Cooperative is that the majority of the members initially were selling wood and that time our office was located at Iloabuchi, the wood section. So when the cooperative, registered in Rivers State, started moving on, we started to take other people. Don’t mind the name. It is a cooperative. Whether you are a wood dealer or you are not a wood dealer, you are entitled to join.
“We have seen Sir. Celestine Omehia. He has integrity, he has a vision for the state. Within his five months of staying in the office we saw lots of things that he did. We believe that he is God-sent to carry Rivers State forward.
“What makes us think that he will win is that majority of the masses are supporting him. Besides that, when we go to court, we see that Sir. Celestne Omehia is the real governor of the state.
“Majority supported him actually but you know how sometimes elections are being done. That is why he is going to court to prove his case. If there is no cheating, let the court give us the fair judgment. If there is nothing like that, Sir Celestine Omehia wouldn’t have gone to court. He would have admitted the result.
“We meet every Thursday in this place to pray for the victory of the election. Clement Udoh is the secretary of the organization. We have the vice, Chukwudi Ikegwuru. We have Emenike Chioma as the pastor of the cooperative. We have Casmire as the Assistant secretary of the cooperative. We have Mr. Ekong as the PRO of the cooperative. We have Emeka as the provost of the cooperative, we have K.C as one of the Mile One co-ordinators and others. We have a woman leader and chairman of the elders too numerous to mention.
“The only thing I want to add is, may God grant Sir. Celestine Omehia victory at the matter that is going on.”
The delegation to give some items to the Motherless Babies Home at Boriki was led by Man K.C.
He said the group is sure of victory.###

Kenneth Amabipi

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