Ugochukwu Alaribe – Umuahia
The governorship election petition tribunal sitting at Umuahia, Abia State, on Friday affirmed the election of Okezie Ikpeazu as governor of the state.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Ikpeazu as the winner of the March 9 election after polling a majority of lawful votes in the poll.
Ikpeazu represented the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the election.
The three-man panel led by Justice Lekan Ogumoye, in a unanimous judgment, dismissed the petition filed by the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, (APGA) in the election, Dr. Alex Otti, as lacking in merit.
Justice Ogumoye said the petitioners failed to prove the alleged non-compliance with the Electoral Guidelines in 15 local government areas of the state.
The tribunal chairman stated that the petitioners also failed to prove the allegation of over-voting and irregularities during the election
He explained that all the reliefs sought by Otti and APGA were dismissed because they could not prove the criminal allegations beyond doubt, stressing that it was not the duty of the tribunal to investigate such allegations and described the application as unmeritorious.
He said the witnesses called by the petitioners were ward, local government and state collation agents who were not physically present to witness the action as their evidence was based on hearsay.
Justice Ogunyoye said the petitioners alleged over voting in 798 polling units but only called witnesses in few polling units.
In a swift reaction, Counsel to Ikpeazu, Chief Paul Ananaba (SAN), commended the tribunal for delivering an unbiased and sound judgment.
Also, the representative of Dr.Otti’s lead counsel, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) said “the judgment has moved the law forward. The position of the tribunal is that the decision of the Supreme Court on the card reader is no longer the law. The law has been amended. The tribunal actually agreed that the law has changed. There is an amendment now.”
Governor Ikpeazu offered the hand of fellowship to the APGA candidate and urged him to join in developing the state.