Court Sacks Imo PDP Reps Member, Ugochinyere

The Imo State National and State House of Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal has made a unanimous decision on Sunday, sacking a member, Ikenga Ugochinyere, who was elected on the platform of the PDP
 Ikenga Ugochinyere
Ikenga Ugochinyeregoggle

In its ruling, a three-member panel of the tribunal, which conducted its proceedings in Nasarawa State, determined that Ugochinyere was not validly nominated by the PDP to contest the Ideato North/South Federal Constituency election that took place on February 25.

Consequently, the tribunal ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to conduct a supplementary election in the constituency within 90 days.

The tribunal, in its lead judgment 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 also ruled that the PDP and its candidate should be excluded from the supplementary election.

This judgment followed a petition lodged before the tribunal by the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Mr. Abazu Chika Benson.

The 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.

INEC had initially declared the PDP candidate, Ugochinyere, as the winner of the election with a total of 13,026 votes. The candidate of the LP, Chigozie, came second with 5,696 votes, while the petitioner sponsored by the APC came third with a total of 2,368 votes.

However, the APC candidate was dissatisfied with the outcome of the election and filed a petition contending that Ugochinyere was not qualified to participate in the House of Reps contest.

The petitioner argued that all the votes credited to the PDP candidate amounted to wasted votes and that the PDP conducted its primary election in a venue outside the constituency, contrary to the express provision of the Electoral Act.

The tribunal's judgment emphasized that documentary and oral evidence proved 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 outside Ideato North/South Federal Constituency.

Based on the provision of section 84 (5) (c) of the Electoral Act 2022, the tribunal held that PDP’s primary election was invalid and that a valid candidate could not have emerged from an invalid primary election.

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. Consequently, it held that since Ugochinyere was not validly nominated, he was not qualified as of the time the House of Reps election was held.

Moreover, the tribunal cited the principle of margin of lead, stating that the candidate of the LP, Chigozie, should be declared the winner of the seat since INEC admitted that it could not hold elections in 55 polling units in the constituency due to activities of unknown gunmen.

As a result, the tribunal directed INEC to conduct a supplementary poll in the remaining polling units, with all parties participating except the PDP.

The other members of the panel who concurred with the lead judgment were Justices Usman Kudu and Ibrahim Mohammed.

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