Tribunal adjourns until May 15 for pre-hearing in suit challenging Ekweremadu’s election

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The National and State Houses of Assembly Elections Petition Tribunal in Enugu on Monday adjourned until May 15, pre-hearing in the petition filed by Mrs Juliet Ibekaku-Nwagwu, challenging the election of Deputy President of the Senate, Chief Ike Ekweremadu.

News Agency of Nigeria reports that Ekweremadu of the Peoples Democratic Party was declared the winner of Enugu West Senatorial election in the February 9 National Assembly elections.

The tribunal had reconvened for the pre-hearing of the case.

However, counsel to the petitioners, Mr H. A. Bello told the tribunal that the suit was not yet ripped for such as time to file the relevant processes leading to pre-hearing was still running.

Bello said the time within which the petitioners were expected to fill and return the pre-hearing information sheet, was seven days to pre-hearing.

He said the seven days contemplated in the rules of the tribunal would start to count from the date of service of the respondents’ final processes.

The counsel said that the first respondent served them their processes on May 7, while the second and third respondents had yet to file their responses.

“It seems to us that the matter is not yet ripped for pre-hearing because the time within which the petitioners are to fill and return pre-hearing information sheet is still running.

“We pray for the adjournment of this matter to such a time that will be ripped,” Bello said.

Responding, counsel to the first respondent, Chief Justina Offiah, SAN, disagreed with Bello and told the tribunal that no time was remaining.

Offiah said that the petitioner ought to generate issues on notices for pre-hearing and filed the same seven days before it lapsed.

She said that the petitioners had themselves to blame for failing to adhere to the rules.

The counsel to the second and third respondents, Mr A. I. Ani, SAN, and Mr Peter Eze aligned with the Offiah and opposed any adjournment as proposed by the petitioners.

In a ruling, the Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Haruna Kereng upheld the argument of the petitioners’ counsel and adjourned till May 15 for pre-hearing.

NAN reports that 10 other cases including the that involving Sen. Chukwuka Utazi, former governor of the state, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani and Chief Toby Okechukwu were also adjourned for the same reason.

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