The Ebonyi State Election Petitions Tribunal convened in Abuja is poised to announce its verdict on Wednesday, September 27th, concerning the petitions challenging the election of Governor Francis Nwifuru.
In the March 18, 2023 gubernatorial contest, the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) declared Governor Nwifuru, representing the All Progressives Congress (APC), as the victor. He secured 199,131 votes across the 13 Local Government Areas of the state, surpassing his closest rival, Chukwuma Ifeanyi Odii of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who garnered 80,191 votes. Also Read: https://legalattorneyblog.com/2023/09/13/labour-party-candidate-struck-out-of-lagos-governorship-election-petition/
However, Odii, his PDP, and the second runners-up, Bernard Odoh and his party, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), contested the outcome and lodged complaints before the tribunal.
In his petition, Odoh seeks Nwifuru’s disqualification on the grounds of certificate forgery and ineligibility to contest the election. He implored the tribunal to revoke the Certificate of Return issued to Nwifuru. Odoh maintains that Nwifuru was still a member of the PDP at the time of the election, rendering him ineligible to be nominated by the APC.
He contends that Nwifuru’s dual-party membership was unconstitutional. Additionally, Odoh alleges that Nwifuru submitted a fraudulent certificate to INEC and appeals to the tribunal to annul the gubernatorial election held on March 18, 2023.
Furthermore, he urges the tribunal to order a new election by Sections 179(3) and (4) of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999 (as amended), for the office of the Governor of Ebonyi State. Odoh insists that this fresh election should involve the two candidates who garnered the most votes in the initial March 18 election.
In the other petition, the PDP and its candidate, Odii, implore the tribunal to compel the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to retract the certificate of return issued to Governor Nwifuru. They also beseech the tribunal to declare Odii as the victor of the election and install him as the duly elected Governor of Ebonyi State based on the March 18 gubernatorial election.
The petitioners assert that Nwifuru was ineligible to contest the election under the APC banner since he remained a bona fide member of the People’s Democratic Party and had not officially defected to any other political party, including the APC.
They argue that, as a serving lawmaker elected on the PDP platform to the State House of Assembly, Nwifuru, who had not officially defected as required by law, could not have run for another party outside the PDP.
The PDP petitions the tribunal to declare that Nwifuru was not qualified to participate in the 2023 governorship election as an APC candidate since he continued to be a member of the PDP, which had not endorsed him for any election during the recently concluded 2023 general elections.
Additionally, the petitioners cite a standing judgment by Justice Henry Njoku of the Ebonyi State High Court, affirming that Mr Nwifuru and other lawmakers of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly who purportedly defected to the APC remain members of the PDP.
The petitioners also raised allegations of non-compliance with the Electoral Act of 2022 by the Independent National Electoral Commission and accusations of electoral malpractices and other infringements.
In response, Governor Nwifuru has urged the court to dismiss these suits as lacking merit. He contends that Nwifuru resigned his PDP membership while serving as Speaker and subsequently joined the APC before participating in the latter’s gubernatorial primary election.
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