By Leonard Okachie
Umuuahia – Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia on Monday opened his defence at the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Umuahia, calling 13 witnesses.
Ikpeazu is the second respondent in the petition filed by Dr Alex Otti, the Governorship Candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), challenging his (Ikpeazu) declaration as the winner of the March 9 poll.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the witnesses, including Messrs Hagler Okorie, Lucky Akabuike and Emeka Stanley, gave evidence as Local Government Collation Agents for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in favour of Ikpeazu.
They said in their amended depositions that the governorship election was free, fair, peaceful and complied with the electoral laws.
They disagreed with the petitioners position over the means of voters’ accreditation during the election.
The petitioners, relying on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Guidelines, had stated in their deposition that the Smart Card Reader was the only means of accreditation for the election.
The witnesses argued that the Electoral Act, which was superior to the INEC Guidelines, allowed for manual accreditation of voter, using Voter Register, in instances where the card reader failed.
After a stormy session, the Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Lekan Ogumoye, later adjourned the case by 5:44 p.m. to Tuesday, for continuation of hearing.
NAN reports that Otti and APGA are seeking the cancellation of the poll’s result in 15 of the 17 local government areas of the state.
They alleged that the exercise was marred by massive irregularities.