N’Assembly polls: Tribunals to decide 400 cases, end sittings
The National Assembly Election Petition Tribunals sitting in several states will end their proceedings this week as they prepare to deliver judgments on no fewer than 400 election petitions.
Though a senior Independent National Electoral Commission official said 552 election petitions were filed by the aggrieved candidates who participated in the National Assembly elections, The PUNCH gathered on Sunday that over 150 of the cases had been decided. It was learnt that some of the cases were withdrawn by the petitioners.
However, about 400 cases are expected to be decides this week as tribunals across the country end their sittings on Saturday 16, 2023.
Some of the leading federal lawmakers whose fate will be decided this week are seven House of Representatives members from Delta State.
In the past weeks, the panels had overturned the victories of no fewer than four senators and seven members of the House of Representatives in the polls held on February 25, 2023.
Among the recently ousted Senators were Emmanuel Udende (APC, Benue North East), Isah Jibrin (APC, Kogi East), Abubakar Ohere (APC, Kogi Central), and Thomas Joel-Onowakpo (Delta South).
In Delta, Senator Joel-Onowakpo faced a re-run election in the Delta South Senatorial District on the orders of the tribunal.The tribunal, led by Justice Catherine Ogunsola, declared the initial election inconclusive and mandated the INEC to conduct a supplementary election in the Warri South council area within 90 days.
Joel-Onowakpo expressed his disappointment with the tribunal’s ruling, but had yet to decide on whether to appeal, leaving the decision to the voters.
In Benue, the tribunal in Makurdi nullified the election of Emmanuel Udende, the Senator representing the Benue North East Senatorial District and declared Gabriel Suswam of the Peoples Democratic Party as the rightful winner based on evidence of over-voting during the election.
Similarly, Senator Jibrin Isah of Kogi East was ousted by a tribunal judgment, which ordered a supplementary election in 94 polling units due to discrepancies in voter card distribution.
In Kogi Central, Abubakar Ohere was unseated by the court which affirmed Natasha Akpoti-Uduagan of the opposition PDP as the winner of the senatorial polls.
Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, Fred Agbedi, the PDP candidate for Sagbama/Ekeremor federal constituency, was also removed by the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal in Bayelsa State.
A fresh election was ordered in specific polling units to rectify the exclusion of 26,000 registered voters.Ngozi Okolie, a member representing Aniocha/Oshimili federal constituency on the platform of the Labour Party, was recently removed from office for failing to meet the nomination requirements following a petition filed by Ndudi Elumelu.
In Abia State, Amobi Ogah of the Labour Party had his election nullified, with Nkeiruka Onyejeocha of the APC declared as the rightful winner of the National Assembly election.
In Enugu, the election tribunal invalidated the election of the LP candidate, Prof Sunday Nnamchi, as a member of the House of Representatives for Enugu East/Isi-Uzo Federal Constituency.
In Lagos State, Seyi Sowunmi of the LP lost his seat as the House of Representatives member for Ojo Federal Constituency. The tribunal declared Lanre Ogunyemi of the APC as the duly elected candidate.
The decision was based on the grounds that Sowunmi was not duly sponsored and qualified to contest the election.
Also in Kano, the tribunal nullified the election of Muktar Umar Yerima of the New Nigeria People’s Party as the House of Representatives member for the Tarauni Federal Constituency on the grounds of submitting a forged primary school certificate to INEC.
The tribunal deemed Yerima’s candidacy illegitimate, rendering all votes cast for him as “wasted votes.”In Calabar, Cross River State, the tribunal affirmed the election of the Senator representing Cross River North in the National Assembly, Jarigbe Jarigbe (PDP).
Former governor of Cross River State, Ben Ayade, had in suit number EPT/CR/SEN/02/2023 approached the court to nullify the senatorial election for being riddled with malpractices and not complying with the Electoral Act.
The former governor also disputed about 377 polling units in the northern senatorial election.
The tribunal, headed by Justice M. Sambo, after a five-hour judgment, dismissed the petition, stating that there was no sufficient evidence to invalidate the election.
It was cheery news for Senator Solomon Adeola, fondly called Yayi, who was affirmed as the duly elected lawmaker for Ogun West Senatorial District.
The tribunal led by Justice Kabir Gabo sitting in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, last Thursday, dismissed the petition marked EPT/OG/Sen/2023 filed by the PDP senatorial candidate, Dada Adeleke for “lacking in merit.”
Similarly, moves by the LP in Lagos to unseat Senator Wasiu Eshinlokun of the APC suffered a setback as the tribunal declared him as the rightful Senator for the Lagos Central Senatorial District.Led by Justice Ashua Ewah, the three-member tribunal dismissed the petition brought forward by the LP candidate, Abiodun Dabiri.
The tribunal ruled that the petition was invalid as the raised concerns fell under pre-election matters.
The election of a former Minister of Interior, Abba Moro of the PDP, was similarly upheld by tribunal sitting in Makurdi, Benue State.
The APC candidate, Mr Dan Onjeh, had filed a petition at the tribunal seeking to nullify the Benue South senatorial election but the tribunal ruled that the evidence put forward by the petitioner was “weak and porous” and dismissed it accordingly.
Plateau gov fate
However, the tribunal sitting in Jos, the Plateau state capital, will on Monday (today) deliver judgment on the NNPP’s petition against the PDP governorship candidate, Caleb Mutfwang, who was declared the winner of the March governorship polls.
A member of Mutfwang’s legal team, Sunday Odey, confirmed the judgment date to The PUNCH on Sunday.The PUNCH reports that the NNPP and its governorship candidate, Alfred Dabwan, were challenging the declaration of Mutwang as the winner of the governorship poll at the tribunal.
In the petition, Dabwan was listed as the 1st petitioner while his party, the NNPP, was the 2nd petitioner whereas INEC, Mutfwang and the PDP were listed as the 1st ,2nd and 3rd respondents, respectively.The petitioners had predicated their petition on the grounds of unlawful exclusion of its identity by the 1st respondent, INEC, during the election, a claim the respondents had urged the court to dismiss
Our correspondent gathered that the Delta State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal may tentatively give its verdict on Wednesday.
The tribunal is expected to deliver judgments in about seven federal constituencies and one senatorial election petitions.
“We have not been informed about the day but we are expecting it between Wednesday and Friday based on the Electoral Act,” a party chieftain said.
So far, the tribunal had delivered judgement in favour of the Delta State PDP three federal constituencies and two Senatorial election petitions.
Senator Thomas Joel-Onowakpo representing Delta South Senatorial District (APC), whose election was nullified by the tribunal last Wednesday, has vowed to remain the Senator for the constituency “now and for the next four years.”
He urged his supporters and members of the APC in the Senatorial District to remain calm.
“Be rest assured that, by God’s grace, the mandate you gave to me at the polls will be defended and I will remain your Senator now and for the next four years,” Joel-Onowakpo stated.
The three-member panel headed by Justice Ogunsola in its ruling, declared the election for Delta South Senatorial District inconclusive just as it ordered the electoral body to conduct a supplementary re-run election in the Warri South Local Government Area of the state within 90 days.
In pronouncing the verdict, the tribunal chairman, further ruled that the certificate of return issued to Joel-Onowakpo be withdrawn.
The petitioner, Michael Diden of the PDP had argued that the electoral body did not follow the Electoral Act before declaring the APC candidate the winner of the election.
Meanwhile, the member of the Delta State House of Assembly representing Oshimili South State Constituency,Bridget Anyafulu, has lauded the tribunal sitting in Asaba for upholding her victory just as she dedicated her triumph to her constituents.The tribunal had dismissed the petition brought before it by Mr Sualeze Eluaka of the APC, contesting Anyafulu’s victory in the state assembly polls.
In dismissing the case, Justice Ogunsola said the petitioner’s case lacked merit and that he failed to prove his case beyond reasonable doubts.
The judge further noted that the evidence brought before the tribunal by the petitioner were not admissible in the eye of the law.
Anyafulu told journalists on Saturday shortly after the tribunal’s verdict at the Asaba Court premises that it was time for quality representation.
The human rights crusader, who was flanked by her supporters, said she would partner with relevant stakeholders to address the challenges in the area through legislation.
In Enugu State, the election petition tribunal had yet to deliver the only Senatorial election being contested by the LP.
Dennis Amadi of the LP is challenging the declaration of Chief Osita Ngwu of the PDP as the validly elected Senator representing Enugu West Senatorial district.
Meanwhile, the tribunal had delivered judgment in the petitions challenging the outcomes of the elections in Enugu East/Isi-Uzo, Igbo-Etiti/Uzo-Uwani, Enugu North/ Enugu South, Oji-River/Awgu/Aninri and Udenu/Igbo-Eze North federal constituencies.
But the panel has yet to pronounce its verdicts on the petitions contesting the elections held in Nsukka/Igbo-Eze South and Nkanu East/Nkanu West constituencies.
While the tribunal nullified the election of the LP candidates for the Oji-River/Awgu/Aninri, Enugu East/Isi-Uzo constituencies on the grounds of not being properly sponsored by their party and declared the PDP candidates as duly elected, it upheld the elections of LP candidates for Enugu North/Enugu South, Igbo-Etiti/Uzo-Uwani, and Udenu/Igbo-Eze North federal constituencies.
It also ruled that the LP candidate for Aninri/Awgu/Oji-River Federal Constituency, Chijioke Okereke, was not known in the election.
The three-man panel led by Justice Nusirat Umar while ruling on a petition filed by Mr Anayo Onwuegbu aka Omeihe-Ukwu of the PDP challenging the declaration of Okereke held that he was not the winner of the polls.
The panel agreed with the petitioners that Okereke wasn’t a candidate in the election and accordingly directed the INEC to issue the certificate of return to the PDP candidate.
The name of a former minority leader of the House of Representatives, Toby Okechukwu, had appeared on the list published by INEC for the election. Also, his name appeared on the result sheet and not that of Okereke.Okereke had approached a High Court sitting in Enugu to claim the LP ticket and a judgment was given in his favour after Okechukwu distanced himself from being a member of the LP.
The tribunal had on Friday sacked Prof. Sunday Nnamchi representing Enugu East/Isi-Uzo Federal Constituency.
It ordered the INEC to issue a certificate of return to Prince Cornelius Nnaji of the PDP as the validly elected candidate for the constituency.
NNPP candidate loses
In Kano, the National and State House of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal on Sunday nullified the election of Yusuf Datti of the NNPP for the Kura/Madobi/Garun Malam Federal Constituency.
The tribunal, headed by Justice Flora Azingbe, voided Yusuf’s election over his failure to resign from his job as a lecturer at the Bayero University, Kano, within 30 days before the election.
Justice Azingbe also held that Datti could not convince the tribunal that he is a member of the NNPP.Following the decision, the tribunal declared Musa Kwankwaso of the APC as the rightful winner of the election.
Kwankwaso was the Commissioner for Rural Development during the administration of former governor Abdullahi Ganduje in Kano State.
In a related development, the LP candidate for Ebonyi South Zone, Linus Okorie, has lashed out at the Minister of Works, David Umahi, for saying he had the right to choose who will succeed him at the Senate.
This was even as he urged the former governor to dissipate more energy in delivering quality and durable roads to Nigerians rather than desperately ‘politicking’ who will replace him at the Red Chamber.