The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Abia State has passed a vote of no confidence on the membership of the Court of Appeal panel set up to hear the appeal by the governorship candidate of the opposition All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Dr. Alex Otti , against Governor Okezie Ikpeazu.
PDP chairman in the state, Senator Emma Nwaka, who addressed the press Saturday in Umuahia , alleged that going by the composition of the panel PDP might not get a favourable judgment.
Nwaka who said that as a lawyer , he would not like to cast aspersions on the integrity of the judiciary, however, said that as the party Chairman he had to raise the alarm based on the intelligence report available to the party.
He, therefore, called on the President of the Court of Appeal, to as a matter of urgency, disband the panel, and set up a fresh panel drawn from different divisions to hear the suit.
“ We have implicit confidence in the judiciary but we fear we may not get justice in this panel. We are not comfortable with this panel. We want them changed”, Nwaka said.
A copy of the petition by the party addressed to the President of the Court of Appeal sighted by our correspondent read in part : “ This request is supported by overwhelming and incontrovertible evidence tilting to the fact that the present panel will not be fair to all parties “.
PDP faulted the selection of four out of the five justices in the panel from Lagos Division alone , a practice, the party said was strange to the tradition of the appeal court in election matters.
The party claimed that the APGA candidate had “ lived and done business all through his life in Lagos” and might influence the devision of the panel.
“ Our party and its members in Abia have no confidence in the present panel. No sane litigant would want his appeal determined by a panel which cannot be trusted to hold the scales of justice like the goddess of justice.
“ No litigant can be confident to entrust the adjudication of a sensitive matter like a gubernatorial election petition in the hands of justices whose appointments have been foretold by the appellant .”
Recall that a group known as Catholic Network of Nigeria (CNN) had last month staged a protest at Bende Local Government Area of the state , also calling for the constitution of members of the panel from justices outside Owerri division.
The pressure group had alleged that the justices in Owerri division were pro- PDP and passed a vote of no confidence on them.
PDP had also about two months ago alleged that a sitting South East Governor and his deputy had been recruited by APGA to influence the appeal court justices in Owerri to give judgment in favour of its candidate.
Recall that the governorship election petitions tribunal sitting in Umuahia had affirmed the victory of Ikpeazu, a judgment Otti has gone to challenge at the Owerri appeal court.