…as SSA to Tinubu commends Judiciary
By Peter Okutu
Abakalikii -The Ebonyi State Election Petition tribunal sitting in Abuja, Wednesday delivered its judgement on Petition No. EPT/EB/GOV/01/2023 [BENARD ODO & APGA Vs INEC, FRANCIS OGBONNA NWIFURU & APC) in favour of Governor Francis Ogbonna Nwifuru of Ebonyi State.
The Tribunal held that the petition bordered on a pre-election matter over which it lacked jurisdiction to determine.
It proceeded nevertheless to determine the petition on merit and dismissed same for lacking in merit.
The Tribunal also held that it is not within the contemplation of the Constitution that the failure of the 2nd Respondent to vacate his seat as Speaker of Ebonyi State House of Assembly after defecting from the PDP to the APC should operate as a bar to his contesting election on the APC platform for the governorship of Ebonyi State.
According to the tribunal, the petitioners failed to prove that the 2nd Respondent was at the time of the election not qualified to contest the Governorship Election, hence there is substantial material evidence before the Tribunal, which shows that the 2nd Respondent duly resigned his membership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The summary of the Court ruling indicated that “The petitioners failed to approach the proper court to entertain the issue of membership of a political party.
“Notwithstanding, the Tribunal has no power to entertain an issue which took place before the election. However, apart from an aspirant who participated in the primaries of the 3rd Respondent, no other person has the right to challenge the membership of the 2nd Respondent.
“No court has the power to dabble or poke into the internal domestic affairs of a political party. (No PDP membership Register of Enyanwuigwe ward was tendered before the Tribunal to substantiate that the 2nd Respondent is a member of PDP).
“The claim of the petitioners that the 2nd Respondent’s APC Form is forgery holds no water as same was not supported by any evidence from the petitioners.
“Where a party forwarded name of a candidate to INEC it means that such a candidate is a fully-fledged member of such a political party. Exhibit R5 which is the votes and proceedings of Ebonyi State House of Assembly clearly disclosed the date the 2nd Respondent defected PDP to APC.
“It is not for the Tribunal to invoke section 109 of the 1999 constitution as amended against the 2nd Respondent, But that of the members of Ebonyi State House of Assembly.
“It will be unjust for the Tribunal to hold that the 2nd Respondent was not qualified to contest the Governorship election of Ebonyi State by the mere fact that he failed to vacate his seat in line with the order in Judgement delivered by Justice Ekwo.
“In the final analysis, qualification on the ground of membership of APC which is a pre-election matter is the only ground. The petitioners therefore woefully failed to prove all the grounds of their petition and the same is accordingly struck out. No order as to cost.”
Also, the judgment in Petition No. EPT/EB/GOV/01/2023 [IFEANYI CHUKWUMA ODII & PDP Vs INEC, FRANCIS OGBONNA NWIFURU & APC) was still ongoing as at the time of this report.
Meanwhile, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Community Development, South East region, Mrs. Chioma Nweze, Wednesday described the victory of Governor Francis Nwifuru at the Ebonyi State election petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja as a victory for democracy.
She tasked the Governor’s opponents, Prof. Benard Odoh of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA and Ifeanyi Chukwuma Odii of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to drop all litigations and join hands with Governor Nwifuru for the purpose of enhancing good governance in the state.
According to her; “I commend the resounding victory of Governor Francis Ogbonna Nwifuru at the Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja. The judgement of the tribunal has again put a judicial seal on the populist mandate freely given to him by the Ebonyi people in the March 18 governorship election.
“The victory validates the decision of the majority of Ebonyians as expressed in their overwhelming votes six months ago. Indeed, the confidence of Ebonyi people in the capacity of the Governor to lead the state towards its manifest destiny of greatness is not misplaced.”
The Senior Special Assistant to the President, Nweze, however, urged the contenders to support Nwifuru’s administration for the purpose of the development of the state.
“It is therefore no surprise that the frivolous petitions challenging the victory of the Governor at the polls were torn to shreds by the impartial sword of justice. I most passionately urge all contenders to his victory to swallow the humble pie and team up with him to enable the state enjoy many more years of progressive governance”.