Court of Appeal
Plans by the All Progressives Congress Akwa Ibom state to instigate violence to necessitate the relocation of the tribunal to Abuja
Incontrovertible evidence abound indicating the preparation of the All Progressives Congress Akwa Ibom state chapter to incite violence in a bid to secure the relocation of the tribunal from Akwa Ibom state to Abuja. This can be gleaned from the first relief, as contained in a letter written by their state chairman to the Attorney General of the federation(attached overleaf), wherein the allegation above is expressly stated.
My Noble Lord, while we know that the location of a court cannot substantially affect the ratio decidendi and the ultimate judgement of the court, we are concerned about the cost at which Justice will be accessed. Four years ago, at the instigation of the APC, all the election tribunals were relocated to Abuja. Litigants suffered untold hardship and difficulty in the transportation and accommodation of their witnesses. The witnesses themselves suffered from illnesses occassioned by sharp weather changes, accidents and other innumerable pains. At the end of that exercise, the judgments that could have been given at Uyo, were still given in different remote parts of Abuja, but the cost of accessing that justice was humongous. Justice is not meant for the rich only, it is also meant to serve the poor; therefore, administrators of justice have a duty to make the cost of accessing justice as minimal as possible.
Additionally, the courts(Tribunal inclusive) are not for the litigants alone, it is open to any member of the public who is interested in witnessing the proceedings conducted there. If this tribunal is moved again to Abuja, it will mean that for eight years, common Akwa Ibom people will not be able to witness the judicial process subsequent to the electoral event that birthed their political leaders- will this not be a great disservice to the populace? Even the legal profession will have its fair share of the problem. Away from the lawyers who are briefed to appear at the Tribunal whose practice will suffer distraction because of the change of location, as they must suspend all other cases during the pendency of the Tribunal cases. Others, especially the new wigs, who though not being briefed, desire to sit in the tribunal to learn,first hand the tactics and strategies of election petition management, will be denied that opportunity for eight years at a stretch. It is common knowledge that most lawyers learn by just going to court to watch other lawyers and the judge. The relocation of the tribunal will do no section of our society any good.
Finally, at the root of the justice delivery system is confidence- where parties are confident of fair and equal treatment by the court. This relocation sought by the APC, if granted, can shake the confidence of other parties. It is public knowledge that the APC in Akwa Ibom intends to use the police, which they boast is theirs, to arrest, intimidate and assault witnesses in abuja in a bid to prevent them from giving their testimonies at the tribunal . There is no security threat in Akwa Ibom state and there can be none, except with the active complicity of the police. So there is no justification for the call by the APC for the relocation of the tribunal.
We respectfully pray His Lordship to:
1. Discountenance in its entirety the call by the APC to relocate the Elections petition tribunal for Akwa Ibom state to Abuja, as same is intended to provoke and irritate other parties to the suit. There is no foundation to necessitate such an application, which in their(APC) usually swim in absolute ignorance, was sent to a wrong and incompetent authority.
2. Cause the Inspector General of Police to direct the commissioner of police in Akwa Ibom to provide sufficient security for the Tribunal through out the duration of its sitting.
We trust that My Lord will exercise the discretionary judicial powers embedded the exalted office of the President of the Court of Appeal, in favour of the common man and common good of our land.
Obong Paul Ekpo
People’s Democratic Party
Akwa Ibom state chapter