The Abia Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Umuahia, on Tuesday, upheld the election of Okezie Ikpeazu as governor of the state.
In an 85-minute judgment delivered by the Chairman, Usman Bwala, the tribunal said that the petitioners, Alex Otti and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), did not prove their claim to have won the election ‘’beyond doubt”.
Mr. Bwala said the petitioners had on one hand, urged the court to nullify the election on grounds that it was marred by irregularities and massive fraud and on the other hand, sought that they should be declared winners of the same election.
He said the petitioners reckoned with the card reader as a means of accreditation during the election of April 11 but failed to agree with use of voter’s register.
The tribunal further refused to grant the petitioners’ request to uphold the cancellation of the results of the election in Obingwa, Osisioma and Isiala-Ngwa North Local Government Areas of the state.
Mr. Bwala said the State Returning Officer, Benjamin Ozumba, was not allowed under the law, to cancel the said results in the first place, hence the subsequent reversal by him had no effect.
He said the onus lay heavily on the petitioners to prove beyond doubt that they won the election as they claimed in their petition.
The tribunal chairman, therefore, dismissed the petition because of the failure of the petitioners to convince the tribunal beyond doubt that they won the election.
Mr. Otti had urged the tribunal to annul the declaration of Mr. Ikpeazu as governor, saying the election was marred by irregularities and substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act.
He, however, urged the tribunal to declare him (Otti) the winner on account of the lawful votes cast during the election.
He also asked the tribunal to uphold Mr. Ozumba’s cancellation of the results for Obingwa, Osisioma and Isiala-Ngwa North LGAs.
He said that Ozumba, having cancelled the results, did not have the power to cancel the result and reverse himself, adding that only the tribunal had the power to reverse the cancellation.
Reacting to the judgment, Counsel to the petitioners, Ndionyenma Nwankwo, said that the legal team would study the judgment and decide on the next line of action to take.
Counsels to Mr.Ikpeazu and the Peoples Democratic Party, Messrs Chubuike Nwokeukwu and Haggler Okorie, commended the tribunal for its judgment, which they described as sound and founded on law.