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Tribunal upturns PDP’s victory in Imo, orders conduct of supplementary election


Tribunal upturns PDP’s victory in Imo, orders conduct of supplementary election

In a groundbreaking ruling, the Imo State National and State House of Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal has disqualified a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmaker, Ikenga Ugochinyere. The three-member panel held that Ugochinyere was not validly nominated by the PDP for the Ideato North/South Federal Constituency election held on February 25.

The tribunal, led by Chairman Justice Anthony Olotu Akpovi, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a supplementary election in 55 polling units where the initial election did not take place. Significantly, it excluded the PDP and its candidate from participating in the supplementary election.

The ruling followed a petition filed by the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Abazu Chika Benson, who contested that Ugochinyere was not qualified to run for the House of Representatives seat. The petitioner argued that the PDP conducted its primary election outside the constituency, which was against electoral regulations.

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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.

It will be recalled that INEC had declared the PDP candidate, 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.

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

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 held that in view of the fact that Ugochinyere was not validly nominated, he was, therefore, not qualified at the time the House of Reps election was held.

The tribunal held that owing to the principle of margin of lead, the candidate of the LP, Chigozie, could but be declared the winner of the seat, since INEC admitted that it could not hold the election in 55 polling units in the constituency, owing to activities of unknown gunmen. It, therefore, directed INEC to conduct supplementary polls in the remaining polling units with the parties participating, except the PDP.

Other members of the panel that concurred with the lead judgement, were; Justices Usman Kudu and Ibrahim Mohammed.

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