From Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
The Imo Sate National and State House of Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal has sacked a member of the Federal House of Representatives for Ideato North/South Ikenga Ugochinyere, who contested the election under the umbrella of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
A three-member panel of the tribunal which conducted the proceeding in Nasarawa State had announced in a unanimous decision that Ugochinyere was not validly nominated by the PDP to contest the Ideato North/South Federal Constituency election held on February 25.
Consequently, it ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to within 90 days, conduct a supplementary election in the constituency.
The tribunal, in its lead judgement that was delivered by its Chairman, Justice Anthony Olotu Akpovi, specifically directed the electoral body to conduct the supplementary poll in 55 polling units where elections did not hold on February 25.
It held that the PDP and its candidate should be excluded from the supplementary election.
The judgement followed a petition that was lodged before the tribunal by candidate of the All Progressives Congress, (APC) Mr. Abazu Chika Benson.
Cited as 1st to 5th respondents in the petition marked: EPT/IM/HR/10/2023, were; INEC, Ugochinyere, PDP, candidate of the Labour Party, Obi Paschal Chigozie and his party, the LP.
Recalled that INEC had declared Ugochinyere, as winner of the election with a total of 13, 026 votes.
Whereas the candidate of the LP, Chigozie, came second with 5,696 votes, the petitioner who was sponsored by the APC, came third with a total of 2, 368 votes.
Dissatisfied with the outcome of the election, the APC candidate filed a petition where he contended that the PDP candidate was not qualified to participate in the election.
The petitioner, among other things, argued that all the votes that were credited to the PDP candidate, amounted to wasted votes.
He told the tribunal that contrary to the express provision of the Electoral Act, the PDP, conducted its primary election in a venue that was outside the constituency.
In its judgement, the tribunal stressed that documentary and oral evidence that was laid before it, established that the primary election the PDP conducted on May 25, 2022, which produced Ugochinyere as its candidate, was held at Aladinma Shopping Mall, a location that was outside Ideato North/South Federal Constituency.
Relying on the provision of section 84 (5) (c)of the Electoral Act 2022, the tribunal held that PDP’s primary election was invalid.
It held that a valid candidate could not have emerged from an invalid primary election.
“Failure of the 3rd respondent (PDP) to abide by the sacrosanct provision of the Electoral Act invalidated its sponsorship of the 2nd respondent,” Justice Akpovi held.
The tribunal maintained that for a primary election to be valid, it must be done in compliance with section 29 (1) of the Electoral Act.
It further held that in view of the fact that Ugochinyere was not validly nominated, he was, therefore, not qualified as at the time the election was held.
Also, the tribunal held that owing to the principle of margin of lead, candidate of the LP, Chigozie, could but be declared the winner of the seat, since INEC admitted that it could not hold election in 55 polling units in the constituency, owing to activities of unknown gunmen.
It, therefore, directed INEC to conduct supplementary poll in the remaining polling units with all the parties participating, except the PDP.
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