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  • Ebonyi: PDP/APGA petitions fail as tribunal re-affirms APC's Nwifuru as Governor
  •  The Ebonyi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting at the National Judicial Institute Abuja, has re-affirmed the victory of Francis Ogbonna Nwifuru of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the duly elected Governor of Ebonyi State.

    On March 20, the INEC declared APC's Nwifuru the winner of the election after he secured 199,131 votes, to defeat his closest challengers, PDP's Ifeanyi Chukwuma Odii and APGA's Professor Bernard Ifeanyi Odoh who garnered 80,191 and 52,189 votes respectively.

    Clearly dissatisfied with the results as declared the umpire, Odoh & Odii approached the tribunal seeking various declaratory reliefs. In both cases INEC, Nwifuru and APC are listed as the 1st-3rd respondents respectively.

    In suit No: EPT/EB/GOV/01/2023, the Odoh/APGA through J S Okutepa SAN contend:

    That the 2nd respondent at the time of the election was not qualified to contest the election

    His petition premised on the fact that Nwifuru was still a member of the PDP having not resigned before defecting to the 3rd Respondent.

    He said Nwifuru, was, therefore, not qualified to contest the poll, as he belonged to two parties, which, he argued, was unconstitutional.

    He also alleged that Nwifuru was not qualified to stand for the election, as he allegedly submitted fake certificate to INEC.

    The APGA candidate prayed the court for an order nullifying and/or setting aside the Certificate of Return issued by the INEC to Nwifuru, disqualify the Candidate and order a fresh election between the next two candidates who scored the highest number of votes.

    In like manner, Odii and the PDP on April 7, approached the tribunal (EPT/EB/GOV/02/2023) seeking that he be declared winner.

    Their petition, almost on similar grounds is praying the disqualification of Nwifuru. They, through their counsel, Chris Uche SAN contends:

    That Nwifuru at the time of the election, was still a bonafide member of the PDP and did not officially defected to the APC hence not qualified to contest the election.

    That the Nwifuru did not score the majority of lawful votes as there was substantial non-compliance with the mandatory provisions of the Electoral Act.

    That the election was plagued by electoral malpractices and corrupt practices

    He further prayed the tribunal to disqualify Nwifuru and declare him winner.

    The positions of both Petitioners was ably rebuffed by Counsel to Nwifuru, Onyechi Ikpeazu SAN.


    In the first petition, the three-man tribunal led by Justice Lekan A. Ogunmoye, ruled that the grounds as set out by the Petitioners (Odoh & APGA) are pre-election matters. He upheld the Preliminary Objections of the Respondents and nonetheless went ahead to determine the petition on merit:

    The tribunal held:-

    1. That the petitioners failed to prove that Nwifuru at the time of the election was not qualified to contest as the 2nd Respondent indeed provided material evidence, the APC Membership Register with his name in it.

    2. That issues of Party membership take up their roots from the Federal High Court as enshrined in Sections 285 of the 1999 CFRN and 29(5) of the Electoral Act 2022.

    Been a pre-election matter, the tribunal possesses no jurisdiction to so dabble into it. Moreover, the membership of a political party is within the domestic affairs of that Party and the tribunal has no jurisdiction to adjudicate thereof, only an aspirant can proceed with challenging same in Court.

    3. That the petitioners showed no proof of submitting a fake or false certificate to INEC. No material evidence whatsoever was put forward before the tribunal.

    4. It is a Party that determines its members. Where the 3rd Respondent has not denied the sponsorship of the 2nd Respondent, his nomination remains intact.

    5. That failure of Nwifuru to vacate his seat as Speaker, which he won in 2019 under the platform of the PDP before contesting the primaries cannot be seen as a disqualifying factor restraining him from contesting the election. It is the responsibility of the fellow members of the Ebonyi Assembly if need be to remove him as Speaker.

    6. That it will be unjust for the tribunal to invoke Section 109(1) of the 1999 CFRN and hold that the 2nd Respondent was not qualified to contest the Governorship election of Ebonyi State by mere fact that he failed to vacate his seat in line with the order in Judgement delivered by Justice Ekwo.

    He further dismissed the suit for lacking in substance and merit.

    The tribunal upheld the declaration of the 2nd Respondent as duly elected.

    In dismissing the second petition (Odii & PDP v. INEC & 2 Ors), the tribunal held in same vein, that Party membership are pre-election matters whose only jurisdiction lies in the Federal High Court.

    It declined jurisdiction to rule on the validity of Nwifuru's nomination and in turn sponsorship.

    The tribunal held that the Petitioners cannot prove that Nwifuru was not qualified to contest the election.

    In determining the Petitioners' Grounds 2 and 3 of the petition wherein they had contended that the election was invalid for non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022 and that the 2nd Respondent was not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the election, the tribunal held:

    That the allegations of the Petitioners on these grounds were not proved. The attempt to prove substantial non-compliance fails.

    The petition was declared incompetent and accordingly struck out.

    The 2nd Respondent was duly elected and returned as Governor, the tribunal held.

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