The Ebonyi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja has upheld the election of Francis Nwifuru as governor of the state.
PREMIUM TIMES reported that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Mr Nwifuru, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of the 18 March governorship election in the state.
Mr Nwifuru polled 199,131votes to defeat his closest challenger, Ifeanyi Odii of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who garnered 80,191 votes.
The candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Bernard Odoh, came third with 52,189 votes.
Mr Odoh and his party, the APGA, challenged the declaration of Mr Nwifuru as the elected governor of the state and asked the tribunal to nullify his election on the grounds of alleged certificate forgery and “ineligibility” to stand for the election.
The APGA candidate, a geophysics professor, contended that Mr Nwifuru, at the time of the election, was still a member of the PDP and therefore ineligible to be sponsored for the election by the APC.
Mr Odoh further argued that Mr Nwifuru was not qualified to stand for the election because he allegedly submitted a fake certificate to INEC.
He urged the tribunal to order for a second election between the other two candidates who scored the highest number of votes at the previous election and exclude the governor from taking part in it.
Delivering judgment, on Wednesday, a three-member panel of judges headed by Lekan Ogunmoye ruled that the petitioners failed to prove that Mr Nwifuru was at the time of the election not qualified to contest the election, according to a report by Vanguard.
It held that there was “substantial material evidence” before the tribunal that the governor duly resigned his membership of the PDP.
The tribunal further held that the petitioners failed to approach a competent court to entertain the issue of membership of a political party, adding that it has no power to entertain an issue that took place before the election.
The tribunal also said that the petitioners have no locus standi to challenge the membership of a candidate of another political party
The tribunal further held that the claim that Mr Nwifuru’s APC form was forged holds no water because the allegation was not supported by any evidence from the petitioners.
“It will be unjust to hold that the 2nd Respondent (Nwifuru) 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 judgment delivered by Justice Ekwo,” the tribunal ruled.
It accordingly struck out the petition.
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