The All Progressives Congress(APC) in Akwa Ibom has called for the resignation of Hon. Justice Jennifer Mbalamen Ijohor, who is the chairman Panel of 2 in charge of National and State House of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal in the state.
The APC observed that Hon. Justice Ijohor is the wife of Professor Anthony Ijohor, the Secretary to the Benue state government as well as strong stalwart of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), who also served as special adviser to Governor Samuel Ortom.
State chairman of the party, Mr. Ini Okopido in a press conference Saturday at the party secretariat Uyo alleged that there was a clear conflict of interest in her work as chairman of the tribunal.
”Akwa Ibom State Chapter of the APC has established that Hon. Justice Jennifer Mbalamen Ijohor, who is the Chairman of Panel 2, National and State House of Assembly Election Petition in Akwa Ibom State, has a strong family relationship with a PDP stalwart, and so, there is a clear conflict of interest in her work as the Chairman of the Tribunal.
”In deed, we can say categorically that the Hon. Justice cannot discharge her duties as objectively as we would expect.
”We know for a fact that the husband to Hon. Justice Jennifer Ijohor, Prof. Anthony Ijohor, SAN, is the Secretary to the Benue State Government under a PDP governor. Prof Ijohor is a strong PDP stalwart in Benue State. Before he was appointed SSG, Prof Ijohor was an Adviser to the PDP Government of Governor Ortom.
”He (Prof Ijiohor) holds very strong and critical views about the APC. It is not farfetched if these sentiments are shared between husband and wife.
”Gentlemen of the Press, you will recall that it was only last month that the President of the Court of Appeal, Hon. Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa recused herself from presiding over the Presidential Election Petition Panel for the reason that her husband is an APC member”, Okopido said.
The APC state chairman alleged that Hon. Justice Jennifer Ijohor as chairman of the tribunal has shown clear bias against the APC in the election petition matters brought before the tribunal hence the need for her to resign.
”We have three major reasons to believe that Hon. Justice Jennifer Ijohor’s conflict of interest has become a burden for her, and so she has not been discharging her duties at the Tribunal objectively.
”One, the Petition number EPT/AKS/HR/08/2019 between Edidiong Efiong Idiong & APC (Petitioners) and Emmanuel Ukpong-Udo, PDP & INEC (Respondents) in respect of Ikono/Ini Federal House of Representatives was struck out on the strength of interlocutory injunction application. This was despite spirited arguments by Counsel to the Petitioners drawing the Panel’s attention to the relevant sections of the Law to persuade the Panel.
”Similarly, the Petition Number EPT/AKS/HR/03/2019 between Hon. Ekerete Ekpenyong & APC (Petitioners) and Hon. Michael Enyong, PDP & INEC (Respondents) for Uyo/Ibesikpo Asutan/Uruan/Nsit Atai Federal Constituency was denied the amendments sought by the Petitioners at the pre hearing stage by the Hon. Justice Ijohor on the flimsy excuse that the name of the federal constituency was not written in full.
”Our lawyers’ spirited arguments to have that amended were turned down. Such amendments are being routinely granted by other Panels and indeed regular Courts. Of course, we have appealed these judgement.
”Another reason we believe that the Hon. Justice is biased against the APC and its candidates is rooted in the public statements and tweets of Henry Ijohor, who is the only son to the Hon. Justice. In his various statements and public communication, Henry has indicated more than a passing interest in the petitions filed at the various tribunals, particularly those in Akwa Ibom and Rivers State. In his tweet of 21st March, 2019, sent out at 8.24pm, Henry said: “The judges and lawyers handling Rivers and Akwa Ibom elections petitions have to be experienced. On the surface it’s obv ious they’ll (sic) be a lot of pressure on them and a lot of work to be done” @BarrHenryIjohor.
”We therefore request the Hon. Justice Ijohor to do the right thing and recuse herself from the Election Petition Tribunal in Akwa Ibom”, he said.
The party also raised the alarm that its witnesses at the tribunals are being threatened and intimidated by persons suspected to be members of the PDP.
”Last month, APC witness, Mr. Tiebet Joshua reported to the Panel 1 of the National Assembly Tribunal that Engr. Chris Ekpenyong, who is the Respondent in the case at the Tribunal, had personally called him and threatened to kill him if he testified for Senator Godswill Akpabio, the Petitioner. And early this week, Dr. Ita Udosen, the Deputy Chairman of our Party in the State, received a phone call in which the caller threatened to trail and deal with him.
”This was in the day he appeared in the Witness Box for his Party and governorship candidate. Dr. Udosen had reported this threat to our Legal Team, who then reported it to the Tribunal. In addition, the Deputy Chairman has formally reported the matter to the security agencies.
”Gentlemen, we believe that these threats are the tactics of the PDP and its members who are now embarrassed as the Tribunals are listening to, and seeing evidence of, the revelations of their ungodly practices during the elections.
”We call on the Security agencies to track down these criminals and bring them to justice. As a Party, we will never be cowed or intimidated by unscrupulous politicians and their collaborators at INEC”, he said.