Ogbonnaya Ikokwu, Umuahia
The Abia State Petition Election Tribunal sitting in Umuahia, the state capital, has affirmed the declaration of Governor Alex Otti, as the winner of the March 18, 2023 governorship election in Abia State.
The governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Okey Ahiwe in the March 18 governorship election, and his counterpart of All Progressive Congress, Chief Ikechi Emenike,
had approached the court to seek the sack of Otti, over allegations of non-resignation of his membership from the APC before joining the Labour Party.
Also joined in the petition were the candidates of the Young Progressives Party, Nana Nwafor and the Independent National Electoral Commission.
Recall that INEC had declared Otti the winner of the election after polling 175,467 votes to defeat his closet rivals; PDP’s candidate, Ahiwe who scored 86,529 votes and Nwafor of the YPP who polled 28,972 votes.
The petitioners had alleged that Otti’s name was not in the Labour Party’s membership register before his nomination as the party’s governorship candidate.
They also prayed the court to sack the governor for allegedly submitting a reference letter to INEC instead of a discharge certificate or an exemption letter.
But in a unanimous judgement on Friday, the tribunal led by Justice J.T.D. Gwadah, dismissed the petition filled by the Ahiwe and the PDP for lacking in merit.
The tribunal delivered its judgement based on three tripod of; if the respondent was elected by the majority of lawful votes cast, if the election was marred by irregularities and if corrupt practices and the issue of membership and sponsorship of a candidate was a pre-election matter.
The court ruled that the petitioners failed to prove the case of alleged irregularities and manipulation of election results in polling units won by the respondent.
The tribunal also struck out a motion by the petitioner alleging that the result of Obingwa Local government during the election was taken to Abuja and manipulated before returning same to be announced in the state collation centre in Umuahia.
The tribunal also struck out another motion by the petitioner that the respondent did not submit his NYSC discharge certificate to INEC because of the inability of the petitioners to prove their case with evidence.
Also ruling on the petition brought before it by the APC’s governorship candidate in the state, Chief Ikechi Emenike, challenging the nomination of Otti by his party, the tribunal held that; “the membership and sponsorship of a candidate for an election is an internal affairs of the party.”
The court equally ruled that the matter was a pre-election matter which should have been disopposed off by the Federal High Court before the election.
The tribunal also held that “anybody challenging the nomination of a candidate for the governorship Election and an aspirant during the primary election that produced the candidate, is a meddlesome interloper”.
The tribunal therefore dismissed the matter for lacking in merit.