The National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Imo State has nullified the election of Mr Ikenga Ugochinyere of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the member representing Ideato North/South Federal Constituency in the 2023 election.
In a unanimous decision on Sunday, a three-member panel of the tribunal which conducted its proceedings in Nasarawa State, held that Ugochinyere was not validly nominated by the PDP to contest the election.
Consequently, it ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a supplementary election in the constituency within 90 days.
The tribunal, in its lead judgement that was delivered by its Chairman, Justice Anthony Olotu Akpovi, directed the electoral body to conduct the supplementary poll in 55 polling units where elections were not held on February 25.
It held that the PDP and its candidate should be excluded from the supplementary election.
The judgement followed a petition that was lodged before the tribunal by the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr Abazu Chika Benson.
In the petition marked: EPT/IM/HR/10/2023, the Petitioners listed INEC, Ugochinyere, PDP, candidate of the Labour Party, Obi Paschal Chigozie and his party, the LP as the 1st to 5th Respondents.
The tribunal held that both documentary and oral evidence that was laid before it, established that the primary election the PDP conducted on May 25, 2022, which produced Ugochinyere as its candidate, was held at Aladinma Shopping Mall, a location that was outside Ideato North/South Federal Constituency.
Relying on the provision of section 84 (5) (c)of the Electoral Act 2022, the tribunal held that the PDP’s primary election was invalid.
It held that a valid candidate could not have emerged from an invalid primary election.
“Failure of the 3rd respondent (PDP) to abide by the sacrosanct provision of the Electoral Act invalidated its sponsorship of the 2nd respondent,” Justice Akpovi held.
The tribunal maintained that for a primary election to be valid, it must be done in compliance with section 29 (1) of the Electoral Act.
It held that in view of the fact that Ugochinyere was not validly nominated, he was, therefore, not qualified at the time the House of Reps election was held.
Also, the tribunal held that considering the principle of margin of lead, the candidate of the LP, Chigozie, could but be declared the winner of the election since INEC admitted that it could not hold the election in 55 polling units in the constituency, owing to activities of unknown gunmen.
It, therefore, directed INEC to conduct a supplementary poll in the remaining polling units with all the parties participating, except the PDP.
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