The Imo State National and State House of Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal, on Sunday, sacked a member of the House of Representatives, Ikenga Ugochinyere, for being an invalid candidate to contest the Ideato North/South Federal Constituency election.
Ugochinyere, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, was announced as the winner with 13, 026 votes. in the February 25 election, as declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The candidate of the Labour Party, Chigozie, came second with 5,696 votes, while the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Abazu Benson. came third with 2, 368 votes.
Expressing his dissatisfaction with the outcome of the election, the APC candidate filed a petition before the tribunal, marked: EPT/IM/HR/10/2023, where INEC, Ugochinyere, PDP, candidate of the Labour Party, Obi Paschal Chigozie and his party, the LP; were cited as the 1st to 5th respondents.
The petitioner maintained that Ugochinyere was not qualified to participate in the House of Reps contest, and also argued that all the votes that were credited to the PDP candidate were wasted votes.
He also noted that contrary to the provision of the Electoral Act, the PDP, conducted its primary election in a venue that was outside the constituency.
In a unanimous decision on Sunday, the three-member panel of the tribunal which conducted its proceedings in Nasarawa State, held that Ugochinyere was not validly nominated by the PDP to contest the election.
The tribunal, in its lead judgment that was delivered by its Chairman, Justice Anthony Akpovi, specifically directed INEC to conduct the supplementary poll within 90 days,
It also noted that the PDP and its candidate should be excluded from the supplementary election.
In its judgment, the tribunal stressed that documentary and oral evidence that was laid before it established that the primary election the PDP conducted on May 25, 2022, which produced Ugochinyere as its candidate, was held at Aladinma Shopping Mall, which was outside the constituency.
Relying on the provision of section 84 (5) (c)of the Electoral Act 2022, the tribunal held that PDP’s primary election was invalid.
It held that a valid candidate could not have emerged from an invalid primary election.
The tribunal maintained that for a primary election to be valid, it must be done in compliance with section 29 (1) of the Electoral Act.
Justice Akpovi said, “Failure of the 3rd respondent (PDP) to abide by the sacrosanct provision of the Electoral Act invalidated its sponsorship of the 2nd respondent.”
It held that in view of the fact that Ugochinyere was not validly nominated, he was, therefore, not qualified at the time the House of Reps election was held.
More so, the tribunal held that owing to the principle of margin of lead, the candidate of the LP, Chigozie, could but be declared the winner of the seat, since INEC admitted that it could not hold the election in 55 polling units in the constituency, owing to activities of unknown gunmen.
It, therefore, directed INEC to conduct supplementary polls in the remaining 55 polling units with the parties participating, except the PDP.
Other members of the panel that concurred with the lead judgment were Justices Usman Kudu and Ibrahim Mohammed.