The National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Umuahia, the capital of Abia State, delivered a series of rulings that have reshaped the political landscape, sacking three House of Representatives members elected on the platform of the Labour Party.
The tribunal, led by Justice Adeyinka Aderibigbe, initiated its actions by nullifying the election victory of Mr. Ibe Okwara Osunwa, who represented the Arochukwu/Ohafia Federal Constituency.
The tribunal’s decision was rooted in non-compliance with the Electoral Act of 2022 and came in response to a petition filed by Daniel Okeke, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the election. As a result, the tribunal ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to revoke Osunwa’s certificate of return and issue a new one to Okeke, recognizing him as the rightful representative.
In a related development, another panel, led by Justice Hajaratu Hajjo Lawa, nullified the election of Munachim Alozie, who represented the Obingwa/Osisioma/Ugwunagbo Federal Constituency.
This decision also stemmed from an electoral error as the tribunal declared that the Labour Party candidate, Alozie, was declared in error and therefore could not stand. The tribunal ordered a rerun to be conducted within the next 90 days, in accordance with the constitution.
Prof. Muhammad Mahmud, speaking on behalf of the three-man panel led by Lawal, noted that the number of leads was greater than the number of voters who were disenfranchised in some polling units but had collected their Permanent Voters Cards. This discrepancy was a key factor in the tribunal’s decision.
The candidate of the Young Progressives Party (YPP), Ibe Michael Nwoke, had petitioned the court after Alozie was declared the winner of the February 25 National Assembly election, challenging the validity of the election results. Nwoke sought the nullification of Alozie’s election, arguing that it was not conducted in a duly elected manner and was invalid based on the margin of lead.
While the counsel to the YPP’s candidate deemed the ruling fair, the Labour Party’s counsel expressed the intention to appeal the case.
Furthermore, another panel of the tribunal nullified the election of Mr. Emeka Nnamani, who represented the Aba North and South Federal Constituency, for certificate forgery. In response to this, the tribunal declared the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the election, Alex Ikwueche, as the winner. INEC was ordered to withdraw Nnamani’s certificate of return and issue a new one to Ikwueche.
These rulings by the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal have significant implications for the political landscape in Abia State and underscore the importance of adhering to electoral laws and regulations to ensure the integrity of the democratic process.