By Ubong Inyang
It took the efforts of armed security operatives to avert bloodshed at the election petition sitting in Calabar, Cross River State on Tuesday as crisis erupted between supporters of various candidates over a fresh application from the lead counsel to PDP candidates, Barrister Paul Erokoro (SAN) challenging the competence of the Tribunal Chairman, Justice Christopher Awubra, to continue sitting as the presiding judge.
As early as 8 am, some petitioners and their supporters for the cases listed for the day had besieged the court room but few minutes to the scheduled time for the sitting to commence, lead counsels for the various cases were called into the judge’s chamber for a meeting. Tension however began to mount.
When the lawyers came out from the brief meeting with the judges, indications emerged that the tribunal may not sit because lead counsel to the PDP candidates, Barrister Paul Erokoro (SAN) had filed a fresh application challenging the competence of the Tribunal Chairman to continue presiding over matters at the tribunal since he is a serving customary court judge in Taraba State judiciary rather than a serving High Court Judge as provided for by the constitution on establishment of election tribunal.
After several hours of endless wait for the proceedings to commence, a heated argument which almost snowballed into a free- for- all ensued between supporters of candidates.
Thereafter, the tribunal clerk, Innocent Akidi called for calm with the aid of security men and announced that the tribunal will not sit and that all matters for the day have been adjourned to Monday October 5, 2015.
Meanwhile, the tribunal had already delivered two judgments in matters that were brought before them and struck out few others.
Among the five cases that were listed for the day include that of Senator Gershom Bassey of the PDP versus Senator Prince Bassey Otu of Labor Party; Hon. Bassey Ewa of the PDP versus Dr. Alex Egbonna of Labor Party and Senator Rose Oko of the PDP and Dr. Julius Okputu of Labor Party.
Others were Hon. Essien Ayi of the PDP versus Hon. Dominic Aqua-Edem of Labor Party and Hon. Chris Agibe of the PDP and the Labor Party candidate in Ikom/Etung Federal Constituency.
All the cases were mostly for adoption of written addresses before judgment dates would be given in the cases as all the parties had concluded their defense.