Court sacks Ikpeazu , declares Otti Abia gov
Ishaku wins at A’Court in Taraba
IT was a pleasant end-of-year gift for Dr. Alex Otti of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) yesterday as the Court of Appeal sitting in Owerri, Imo State , declared him the winner of the April governorship election in Abia State .
By this declaration, the court sacked the incumbent governor, Dr. Okezie Ikeazu , of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The court directed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to issue Otti with a certificate of return, maintaining that there was no need for a rerun election.
The judgment, by a five-man justice presided over by Justice Bisi Omoleye, said that Otti scored a total of 164,444 valid votes to defeat Ikpeazu, who garnered 114,444 votes.
Besides, the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja yesterday returned the electoral mandate to Taraba State Governor Darius Ishaku of the PDP thereby reversing the judgment of the Taraba State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal which sacked him.
In a unanimous verdict of the Court of Appeal on the appeal lodged by Ishaku challenging the tribunal’s decision which sacked him, the panel presided over by Justice Abdul Aboki held that the tribunal lacked the power to invalidate Ishaku’s election on the finding that he was not validly nominated by the PDP through primaries.
The tribunal had said it was satisfied that Ishaku was not validly nominated and elected.
But the Justice Aboki-headed panel held that questions of nomination of a candidate by a political party are strictly pre-election matters and therefore outside the jurisdiction of any tribunal to venture into.
“The right to complain is severely limited to participants in the primary election. Whether the primary election was done rightly or wrongly cannot be subject of an election petition. The most important question to be asked here is, was the appellant a member of a political party or sponsored by a party to participate at the election?
“All evidence before the tribunal pointed to the fact that the appellant was duly sponsored by the PDP and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) duly received his nomination. The April 11 election is hereby upheld.
“The certificate of return issued to the appellant by the 4th respondent in this matter remains valid. I make no order as to cost”, the court held.
The Justice Musa Danladi Abubakar-led tribunal had on November 7, declared Senator Alhassan of the APC as the bona-fide winner of the April 11 governorship poll in the state.
The tribunal said there was overwhelming evidence that the PDP in Taraba State, sidelined the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010, and the 1999 constitution, as amended, when it decided to hold the primaries that produced Ishaku as its candidate in Abuja instead of Jalingo , the Taraba State capital.
It held among others, that the purported nomination of Ishaku for the election, without a valid primary election monitored by INEC, was in breach of sections 85, 87 and 138(1) of the Electoral Act, 2010, as well as section 177 of the 1999 constitution, as amended.
Otti won in the April 11 poll, and supplementary election in Abia State. Omoleye said the cancellations of the elections held in the three local councils in the state- Obingwa, Osisioma and Isiala Ngwa North, by the returning officers after the results were uploaded to the INEC, was wrong.
He said: “In the Electoral Act, the returning officer only has the right to declare results of elections and not to cancel elections. This panel discovered that the earlier results uploaded to INEC headquarters corresponded with the correct valid registered voters in the three LGAs”.
The court turned down the objection by the PDP that the panel was wrongfully constituted, affirming the submission of Otti’s counsel.
The court said the lower tribunal erred by not handling all the issues by the appellant, Otti.
Otti’s lawyer, Oracle Nwali, described the victory as ‘victory for all and a New Year Gift for APGA and Otti.’