Tribunal upholds rep member’s victory, dismisses Abia exspeaker’s petition
The National Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Umuahia, the Abia State capital, has dismissed a petition filed by the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, Chief Chinedum Orji, against the member representing the Ikwuano/Umuahia North/South Federal Constituency, Chief Obi Aguocha, of the Labour Party.
The Independent National Electoral Commission had declared Aguocha the winner of the February 25, 2023 reps election after polling a total number of 48,199 votes to defeat Orji, who polled 35,196 votes.
But not satisfied with the outcome of the election, Orji, who is the former speaker of the Abia State House of Assembly and son of former governor Theodore Orji, approached the tribunal to seek redress.
He prayed the court to nullify Aguocha’s victory, claiming that he was not dully nominated as the LP candidate and therefore was not qualified to contest the election. Orji also told the court that Aguocha contested the PDP primary election and lost before joining the LP.
He argued that Aguocha’s name was not in the register of the Labour Party summited to INEC, while there was no notification to INEC 30 days before the primary election that produced him as the LP flag bearer.
Orji, further stated that there was overvoting in some polling units that gave Aguocha an advantage over him. However, ruling on the matter on Thursday, the tribunal led by Justice Abubakar Kutigi, held that the membership of a political was a pre-election matter, adding that the tribunal lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the matter, which should have been decided before the election.
He also ruled that the petitioner failed to prove that the respondent was not duly nominated by LP, as the issue concerning the candidate of a party in an election is an internal party affair.
The tribunal equally struck out the allegation of overvoting against the respondent by the petitioner, saying that he failed to prove it beyond every reasonable doubt.
The tribunal, however, dismissed the petition as lacking in merit, adding that it cannot fly.
Speaking shortly after the judgement, the counsel for the petitioner, Mr Obinna Nkume, said his team would review the judgement and decide on the next line of action.
“We get the records of the judgement, review it and decide our next line of action,” he said
Also, the counsel to the respondent, Mr Friday Nwokeocha, hailed the panel for delivering a sound judgement. He called on the petitioner to accept the judgement in good faith and support Aguocha, whom he described as the petitioner’s brother.
He said, “The petitioner exercised his right by challenging the outcome of the election at the tribunal, he still has the chance of appealing the judgement, but I will advise him to accept the judgement and support Aguocha because we are one and the future is still bright for him.”