By Blessing Ibegbu
The Imo Sate National and State House of Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal, has nullified the election of a member of the House of Representatives, Ikenga Ugochinyere of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The Tribunal also ordered National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a supplementary election within 90 days.
This was contained in a unanimous decision on Sunday by a three-member panel of the Tribunal 3, which conducted its proceedings in Mararaba, Nasarawa State.
It held that Ugochinyere was not validly nominated by the PDP to contest the Ideato North/South Federal Constituency election that held on Feb. 25.
In its lead judgment delivered by its Chairman, Justice Anthony Akpovi specifically directed the electoral body to conduct the supplementary poll.
He said the supplementary poll should be in 55 polling units, where elections did not hold on Feb. 25.
It held that the PDP and its candidate should be excluded from the supplementary election.
The judgment followed a petition that was lodged before the tribunal by the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Abazu Benson.
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 labour Party (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 wherein he contended that Ugochinyere 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.
The tribunal stressed that documentary and oral evidence that was laid before it, established that the primary election of the PDP conducted on May 25, 2022, which produced Ugochinyere was outside the constituency.
It was held at Aladinma Shopping Mall, a location that was outside Ideato North/South Federal Constituency.
Relying on the provisions 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 as at the time the House of Reps election held.
More so, 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.
Other members of the panel that concurred with the lead judgment, were; Justices Usman Kudu and Ibrahim Mohammed.(NAN)(www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Joseph Edeh