The Ebonyi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, on Wednesday, dismissed the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Chief Ifeanyi Odii, against the election victory of Gov. Francis Nwifuru.
The three-member panel headed by Justice Lekan Ogunmoye, in a unanimous judgment, held that the petitioners failed to prove that Nwifuru was still a member of the PDP when he ran for governorship position in the March 18 poll.
The panel consequently dismissed the petition for lacking in merit.
The petitioners had prayed the court to void the declaration of Gov. Nwifuru of the All Progressives Congress (APC), as winner of the governorship contest.
While adopting their process, PDP and its candidate, Odii, through their team of lawyers led by Chief Chris Uche (SAN), maintained that Nwifuru did not secure the majority of lawful votes that were cast during the election.
The petitioners told the tribunal that Nwifuru’s election victory was characterised by corrupt practices, alleging that there was substantial non-compliance with provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022.
Besides, they argued that Nwifuru did not validly resign from the PDP before he was nominated as the governorship candidate of the APC.
According to the petitioners, Nwifuru, being a PDP member at all material times before the governorship poll, was not eligible under Section 177(c) of the 1999 Constitution, to have been sponsored by the APC to contest as its flag-bearer.
They told the tribunal that prior to the governorship contest, Nwifuru, who was elected into the Ebonyi State House of Assembly in 1999, served as Speaker while on the ticket of the PDP, until May 2023.
Consequently, PDP and its candidate, in their joint petition, prayed the tribunal to declare that they were the valid winners of the governorship election.
They prayed the court to withdraw the Certificate of Return that was issued to governor Nwifuru by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
More so, the petitioners cited a subsisting judgment of a High Court in Ebonyi, delivered by Justice Henry Njoku, which they said held that Nwifuru and other lawmakers in the state that purportedly defected to the APC, were still members of the PDP.
NAN reports that the tribunal dismissed the petition filed by Prof. Benard Odoh, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), against Gov. Nwifuru.
The three-member panel held that the petitioners lacked the locus standi to institute the action because the issue raised in the petition was an internal affair of the APC.
Following INEC’s declaration of Nwifuru as winner of the March 18 governorship election in Ebonyi, Odoh and APGA filed the petition marked: EPT/EB/GOV/01/2023 against INEC, Nwifuru and APC.
The justices contended that Nwifuru was illegally nominated by the APC because he was still a member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) as a Speaker of the House of Assembly when the APC nominated him.