By Leonard Okachie
The Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Umuahia on Friday dismissed the petition of the All Progressives Congress Candidate, Chief Ikechi Emenike, challenging Gov. Alex Otti’s election.
The three-member panel in about five-hour judgement, struck out the petitions for being incompetent and lacking in merit.
It ruled that the petitioners failed to prove the grounds of their petition and affirmed the election of Otti in the March 18 poll.
Also joined in the petition were the candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Okechukwu Ahaiwe, the Young Progressives Party, Nana Nwafor and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the panel had also in a few hours earlier dismissed Ahaiwe’s petition against Otti for lacking in merit.
The panel in a unanimous decision read by the member, Justice Omolara Adeyemi, held that the petitioners lacked the locus standi to challenge Otti’s membership of LP.
It ruled that the choice of party’s candidate in an election was an exclusive preserve and domestic affair of the party and described the petitioners as “meddlesome interlopers”.
That being the case, the tribunal said that it lacked the jurisdiction to adjudicate over the matter.
Emenike had also prayed the tribunal to cancel Otti’s votes as well as those of PDP and YPP candidates and declare him the lawful winner of the poll.
The panel held that Emenike failed to provide substantial evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he won the election, hence struck out his petition.
Also, the tribunal dismissed Emenike’s allegation that Nwafor did not resign his membership of PDP before becoming YPP’s candidate.
It contended that membership of a party was a pre-election matter and entirely the domestic affairs of the party.
The tribunal also struck out Emenike’s petition that PDP’s Ahaiwe did not resign his appointment as the Chief of Staff to former Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu, 30 days before the election, as provided by the Electoral Act, 2022.
Speaking with newsmen at the end of the judgment, the petitioners’ Counsel, Mr Fabian Nwankwo, commended the panel for working round the clock to conclude its assignment in record time.
Nwankwo said that the tribunal lost a lot of time initially and that the 180 days would have elapsed on Sunday.
He said that they had their reservations against the judgment and would approach the Supreme Court to ventilate their disagreement.
NAN reports that counsels took turn after the judgment to pour encomium on the panel members, led by Justice G.T.D Gwadah, for their “impressive performance”.
The judgment was delivered at the Federal High Courtroom under heavy security.
Meanwhile, the judgment sparked off spontaneous jubilation among LP faithful and supporters as well as Umuahia residents. (NAN)