The governorship election petition tribunal sitting in Umuahia, the Abia State capital on Friday struck out the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) election petition against the governor tribunal of the state, Dr. Alex Otti of the Labour Party (LP).
The three man panel led by Hon. Justice H.T.D Gwadah in a three hours judgement dismissed the three grounds; Alex Otti’s qualification to participate in the 2023 governorship election, Electoral Malpractice and Otti’s inability to score the required number of votes to qualify him to be declared the winner of the 2023 polls, for which PDP approached the tribunal.
In her judgement, Gwadah dismissed the PDP petition for lack of merit.
She said that the PDP were unable to prove beyond every reasonable doubt that there were cases of corruption/malpractice and disenfranchisement of voters in 15 local government areas that they mentioned or the purported alteration of the 2023 governorship election result before it was announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The election petition tribunal chairman also said that issues bothering on party primaries that produced Otti as the governorship candidate, is a pre-election matters, adding that the tribunal doesn’t have the jurisdiction to entertain the matter.
The tribunal in its judgement said that the PDP failed to prove that Alex Otti didn’t score the required number of lawful votes to be declared the governor of the state.
The election petition tribunal also dismissed the petition brought before it by the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), High Chief Ikechi Emenike.
Emenike in his petition urged the tribunal to nullify the candidacy of Gov. Otti and governorship candidates of the PDP, Okechukwu Ahiwe and Enyinnaya Nwafor of the Young Progressives Party (YPP) in the 2023 governorship election.
The tribunal also dismissed Ikechi’s petition challenging the emergence of Otti as the governorship candidate of the Labour Party.
They also struck out claims by the APC and their governorship candidate urging the tribunal to order the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to retrieve the certificate of return it issued to Otti as the duly elected governor of the state, which the tribunal said APC and their governorship candidate failed to prove beyond every reasonable doubt that the party scored the highest number of votes in the 2023 governorship election in the state.
One of the counsels to Otti and a former Attorney General of the state, Umeh Kalu hailed the judgement, adding that the victory is for Abians and the Labour Party.
Meanwhile, the Abia State chapter of the All Progressives Congress has rejected the judgement of the Abia State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, which today affirmed the victory of Gov. Alex Otti in the March 18, 2023 election.
A statement by Dr. Kingsley Ononogbu, Chairman, All Progressives Congress (APC), Abia State after the judgement read, “This verdict handed down by the three-man panel is the mother of Miscarriage of Justice.
It is unacceptable and we reject it.
“We condemn unequivocally the judgement of the tribunal. Consequently, we have mandated our legal team to appeal the
judgement of the tribunal.
“With this judgement today, it is obvious that justice was strangulated; more so, and very worrisome is that the court may no longer be the hope of the common man if justice continues to be debased.
“As a party, we approached the tribunal with fundamental issues that questions on Non-compliance and qualifications. We provided substantial evidences and facts in support of our petitions but was surprised and shocked that the tribunal closed its eyes against all the evidences before it and averted justice.
“Abia is aware that extraneous forces were at play during the proceedings. There was a high ranking individual whose inappropriate presence during one of the proceedings was viewed with suspicion.
“It was part of the machinations to intimidate, coax and arm-twist the judges in order to pervert justice and deliver judgement in favour of a particular client, irrespective of abundant evidences before the tribunal.
“This undoubtedly, may have fueled the audacity and open display of provocative arrogance by Labour Party led Abia State government, which had predicted the possible outcome of the judgement and switched into an excitement and celebration mood, a week before verdict.
“Regrettably, the Abia Election Petition Tribunal could not brush-off or borrow courage to defeat intimidation in order to deliver justice as exemplified recently, by the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.
“We therefore, call on our teaming supporters, members of our party and good people of Abia to remain calm, keep faith in the judiciary and be of good courage as all hope is not lost.
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“We will not be deterred by this temporary setback. We are confident that in the end, justice and rule of law will prevail, having the knowledge that “Though the wheels of justice turn slowly, it grinds exceedingly fine”.