The Election Petitions Tribunal in Awka on Tuesday struck out the petition filed by Prof. Dora Akunyili against Chris Ngige’s victory in the Anambra Central Senatorial poll last year.
Former Minister of Information Akunyili had been locked in legal battle with former Anambra State Governor Ngige to be declared the winner of the election.
Akunyili contested the election under the banner of the All Progressive Grand Alliance while Ngige represented the Action Congress of Nigeria.
Ruling on an oral application for the striking out of the petition made by counsel for Ngige, Mr. Emeka Ngige, the Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Pat Onajite-Kuejubola, held that the tribunal lacked the jurisdiction to continue to try the petition.
Onajite-Kuejubola said the petition was dismissed based on the recent Supreme Court’s decision that the 180 days given for the determination of election petitions at the tribunal level could not be altered in any way.
She said, “The 180 days cannot be extended, not even by an order of the Court of Appeal. Accordingly, the tribunal no longer has jurisdiction to try the petition. Consequently, all the proceedings of the tribunal from the day the petition was returned from the Court of Appeal for retrial are now a nullity. The petition is hereby dismissed.”
Earlier during the proceeding, Ngige’s counsel had drawn the attention of the tribunal of the Supreme Court’s decision of February 14 and 17, 2012, barring the tribunal from further hearing in the petition.
He argued that being a subordinate court to the Supreme Court, the tribunal had a constitutional duty to abide by the apex court’s decisions.
He therefore urged the tribunal to strike out the petition on the basis that the 180 days required by the Constitution had lasped.
Ngige’s argument was adopted by the lead counsel for INEC, Mr. Ositadinma Nnadi.
Though Dr. Chike Akunyili, the petitioner’s husband, had congratulated Ngige in court over the judgment, her lead counsel, Mr. Obiora Obianwu, said her client would appeal against the ruling at the Court of Appeal because “the Supreme Court’s decision does not apply in this matter.”
But the lead counsel for Akunyili, Mr. Obiora Obianwu, argued that the decision of the Supreme Court did not apply to the petition before the tribunal because the Court of Appeal, which ruled that the tribunal had the jurisdiction to try the petition with a fresh 180 days was the final court in election matters concerning National Assembly and State Assembly petitions.