The Governorship Election Tribunal sitting in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi state capital, on Friday upheld the election of Governor David Umahi of the Peoples Democratic Party as the winner of the governorship election held in the state on April 11
In an eight-hour judgment, the tribunal held that the petitioner failed to prove his case beyond reasonable doubt and consequently dismissed the petition for lacking in merit.
The Labour Party’s candidate in the election, Edward Nkwegu, had approached the tribunal seeking the nullification of the victory of Mr. Umahi on the ground that the election was marred by irregularities and substantial non compliance with the provisions of the electoral act and some provisions of the Nigerian constitution.
The petitioner also contended that the election was marred by corrupt practices and that Mr. Umahi did not score majority of the lawful votes cast, which he said were enough ground to nullify the election.
The three-man panel, headed by Theresa Egoche, began by striking out paragraphs containing allegations against named and unnamed persons who were not parties to the petition on the grounds that they were vague, imprecise and lacking in simplicity in line with objections of the counsels to the governor.
The panel also rejected INEC election guidelines for the governorship election tendered as evidence by the petitioner on the ground that it was not part of the list of evidences sought to be tendered in the petition by the petitioner.
Also, the tribunal held that the electoral guidelines were mere instructions and had no force of law against the offenders/defaulters and as such cannot be a ground to challenge an election.
She noted that a breach in the electoral guideline as alleged by the petitioner cannot be a ground to nullify the election.
On the usefulness of the evidences tendered by the expert witness called by the petitioner, the tribunal held that it never asked for any expert analysis to be able to consider whether there was over-voting or not in the said election and for that reason cannot use such evidences as grounds to determine the petition .
It ruled equally that the petitioner failed to tie evidences dumped before the tribunal to his claims noting that a judge is an adjudicator and not an investigator.
It observed that the petitioner’s witnesses during cross examination discredited the evidences earlier tendered by the petitioner before the tribunal.
She said, “The inability of the petitioner to call witnesses who were present during the election to prove his claim that the results shown through the card readers evidence were authentic makes his claim doubtful and cannot be relied upon by the tribunal.
“None of the witnesses called by the petitioner gave the evidence of how the card reader functioned at their polling units, “the panel held.
It also held that the petitioner, who alleged over-voting, did not tender any result sheet showing that votes were illegally allocated/awarded to the first respondent.
“We cannot see the evidence of non compliance to the electoral act or guidelines in the evidences given by petitioner’s witnesses”.
“The petitioner having failed to show evidences showing that he scored the highest number of votes proves that the first respondent was dully elected,” the tribunal said.
The counsel to the petitioner A.I Akaraiwe, thanked the panel and urged it to make copies of the judgment available to concerned parties as soon as possible.
Counsels to Chief Umahi (1st respondent), that of the PDP, Arthur Obi Okafor SAN, and J.U.K Igwe SAN, as well as E.S Nriezedi, who represented INEC, commended the tribunal for the judgement.
Reacting to the judgment, Governor Umahi said he had relied on God throughout the trial period.
He reiterated the readiness of his administration to fight corruption in the state.