The State and National Assembly Elections Petitions Tribunal in Enugu has affirmed the election of Sen. Ike Ekweremadu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on Feb. 23 general elections.
In a unanimous judgement delivered on Monday, the tribunal dismissed the petition brought by Mrs Juliet Ibekaku-Nwagwu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), as lacking in merit.
The Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Haruna Kereng, while reading the judgment, said that the petitioners completely failed to prove their allegations beyond a reasonable doubt. Kereng said that allegations of substantial non-compliance to the Electoral Act, thuggery, falsification of figures needed to be proven polling unit by polling unit.
He said that the few polling unit witnesses brought by the petitioners failed to demonstrate to the tribunal how the election figures were falsified. He said that out of the 824 polling units, 81 wards and five local government areas in the state, the petitioners were only able to present 16 witnesses with most of them presenting testimonies that were not convincing. “INEC had declared Ekweremadu winner with 86,088 votes against 15,187 scored by Ibekaku-Nwagwu. It is the responsibility of the petitioners to bring their polling unit agents to demonstrate to us how over 70,000 votes will be deducted from the score of the first respondent to make them winners. “They only presented witnesses in few polling units and wards,” he said.
Kereng said that the petitioners ought to have pleaded two sets of results, including the wrong and correct results that would have returned them as winners. He said that certain paragraphs of their petition contained criminal allegations and that the persons whom the allegations were made against remained hidden. “Having failed woefully to prove their allegations that the first respondent was not elected by a majority of the lawful vote cast, we, therefore, affirm the election of the first respondent as the winner of the election,” he declared.
Kereng awarded a cost of N750,000 against the petitioners. Reacting, counsel to the first respondent, Mrs Justina Offiah (SAN), described the judgment as thorough, adding that all counsels in the matter had put in their best. Offiah requested for a conservative cost against the petitioners to serve as a deterrent to election losers who would want to approach the tribunal with flimsy petitions. However, counsel to the petitioners, Mr Patrick Luke, said that it was the constitutional right of those who are declared losers in an electoral process to seek redress in a court of law. “It is my humble view that all the parties should bear their costs because all the parties incurred costs,” Luke added.