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EBONYI: Tribunal dismisses APGA, Odoh’s petition against Nwifuru

THE State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja has dismissed the petition filed by the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and its candidate, Benard Odoh, against the victory of Governor Francis Nwifuru of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for lacking in merit.

In a unanimous judgment, a three-member panel headed by Justice Lekan Ogunmoye, dismissed the petition for lacking in merit.

The tribunal held that the petitioners failed to prove that the 2nd respondent (Nwifuru) was at the time of the election not qualified to contest the governorship election.

The tribunal held that there is substantial material evidence before it which shows that Governor Nwifuru duly resigned his membership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The tribunal held that the petitioners failed to approach the proper court to entertain the issue of membership of a political party.

Notwithstanding, the tribunal said it has no power to entertain an issue which took place before the election. However, apart from an aspirant who participated in the primaries of the 3rd Respondent, no other person has the right to challenge the membership of the 2nd Respondent.

In his petition, the petitioner alleged that Governor Francis Nwifuru was declared in error as Governor by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The APGA governorship candidate had equally urged the tribunal to hold that at the time of the election, Nwifuru was not qualified to contest on the grounds that he was still holding sway as Speaker of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, instead of the All Progressives Congress, under which he was declared as Governor by INEC.

In his final written address which was adopted by his lead counsel, Jibrin Okutepa, the APGA candidate said it was unknown to any law in Nigeria for INEC to declare Nwifuru Governor on the stable of the APC, while he was still retaining his membership in the PDP.

In summary, the case of the Petitioner is that the 2nd Respondent cannot be qualified to contest the election as a candidate of the 3rd Respondent while being a member of another political party in gross violation of both the Electoral Act 2022 and the 1999 Constitution as amended.

But counsel to Nwifuru, Onyechi Ikpeazu, prayed the court to dismiss the suits for not being meritorious.

Ikpeazu argued that Mr Nwifuru while serving as Speaker of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly, resigned his membership of the PDP and joined the APC before vying for the governorship primary election of the latter.

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