BY Tony Edike
ENUGU—THE National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Enugu has dismissed the petition challenging the election of former Senate spokesman, Ayogu Eze, who represents Enugu North senatorial district at the National Assembly.
The Labour Party candidate in the April 2011 senatorial election, Mike Ajogwu, SAN, had dragged Senator Eze before the tribunal claiming that he (Eze) was not qualified to contest the election.
In the petition filed after the April elections, Dr. Ajogwu asked the three-man panel to invalidate Eze’s election on the basis that he was not validly nominated to fly the PDP flag during the election.
However, delivering judgment on the matter, the tribunal declined jurisdiction, saying the matter, being a pre-election one, would be appropriately handled by the high courts and not the election tribunal.
The judgment, read by the chairman of the panel, Justice Abdulahi Liman, also dismissed the case, saying the petitioner, Ajogwu, lacked the locus standi to challenge the first respondent’s (Eze) election.
He declared after reviewing the whole scenario that “on the whole, we find no merit in this petition and, therefore, dismiss it.”
Liman, who cited many existing legal decisions to buttress the tribunal’s judgment, stated that in all these, the issue of jurisdiction as it affected the present case had not changed, querying why the petitioners waited all the way from January, when the PDP primary elections were held, till after the elections in April before complaining about the first respondent’s nomination.
The tribunal also wondered why the petitioners accepted to contest with the PDP candidate they deemed illegally nominated and why they did not complain to INEC before the elections.
“We, therefore, hold that this tribunal lacks jurisdiction in this matter and we, therefore, decline jurisdiction,” Liman said.
In the petition, Senator Eze is the first respondent, the PDP, second, while the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC is the third respondent.
The Tribunal awarded N100,000 cost to each of the first and second respondents against the petitioner.
Earlier, while reviewing the petition and the defence of the respondents, the tribunal had held that based on the provisions of Section 138 of the Electoral Act as amended, the petitioner posed a pertinent question on the issue of qualification for the election but that the issue of jurisdiction also stood clearly to invalidate the quest to pursue the matter at the tribunal.