By Edith Nwapi
Abuja, Nov. 19, 2019
The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on Tuesday affirmed the victory of Emeka Ihedioha in the March 9 governorship election in Imo.
The appeals were filed against the judgment of the Imo Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, which upheld the election of Ihedioha.
It includes that of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and his governorship candidate, Senator Ifeanyi Ararume; Action Alliance (AA) and his governorship candidate, Uche Nwosu and that of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its governorship candidate, Sen. Hope Uzodinma.
The appellants were asking the appellate court to void the election of Ihedioha on grounds that he did not obtain the constitutional one quarter of the votes in at least two-thirds of the 27 local government areas of the state, in line with Section 179 of the Constitution.
In their various submissions by their counsel, the appellants were asking the court to set aside the decision of the tribunal and declare them winner of the March 9 governorship election.
Also in the alternative order the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a fresh election into the office of Governor of Imo State.
In a unanimous judgment, the five -man panel presided by Justice Oyebisi Omoyele dismissed the appeal by Action Alliance and it’s candidate, Uche Nwosu for lack of merit and upheld the judgment of the lower tribunal.
In addition, a cost of N500, O00 was awarded against the appellants.
The panel upheld the judgment of the lower tribunal adding that the assessment of the tribunal was thorough and resolved the appeal against the appellants.
In Sen. Hope Uzodinma’s appeal, there was a dissenting judgment of ratio 4:1
Four members agreed that the appeal lacks merit in addition awarded a cost of N500, 000 against the appellants while a member saw merit in the appeal and said that the judgment of the lower court be set aside awarded a cost of N1 million against PDP and Ihedioha.
In Ifeanyi Ararume’s appeal, the appeal was also dismissed for inability of the appellants to prove their allegations against the respondents.
The panel affirmed the judgment of the lower tribunal and awarded a cost of N500, 000 against the appellants.
The three-member panel of the tribunal had in a unanimous decision delivered on Sept. 21, held that Ihedioha was lawfully declared winner of the governorship election by INEC.
The panel chaired by Justice Malami Dongondaji, had in the judgment dismissed Ararume, Nwosu and Uzodinma’s petitions for lacking in merit on the grounds that they failed to prove allegations made in their petitions.
They claimed that Ihedioha did not obtain the constitutional one quarter of the votes in at least two-thirds of the 27 local government areas of the state, in line with the provisions of the law.
The petitioners also alleged substantial non compliance with the Electoral Act and Guidelines, including other irregularities.
The tribunal in its judgment held that the case of the petitioners was unmeritorious because they failed to call relevant witnesses and that evidence of witnesses called were based on hearsay.
The tribunal in addition rejected documents tendered by the petitioners in support of their claims on the grounds that those who led evidence in the documents were not the makers of the documents.
In his appeal, Ararume urged the appellate court to upturn the decision of the tribunal on the grounds that the lower court erred in law when it arrived at the decision that his case and that of his party lacked merit and accordingly dismissed it.
The appeal which was predicated on 22 grounds was argued by his lead lawyer, Mr Awa Kalu, SAN, while that of Nwosu and AA, was argued by Mr Niyi Akintola SAN, and that of Uzodinma and APC, was argued by Mr Damian Dodo ,SAN.
They all urged the panel to allow the appeal and grant all the reliefs sought by the appellants.
However, lead counsel to Emeka Ihedioha and Peoples Democratic Party, Dr Onyechi Ikpeazu , SAN, and Mr K.O. Njemanze ,SAN, respectively urged the court to dismiss the appeals for being incompetent and lacking in merit.
The respondents submitted that the appeal of the AA and Nwosu in particular constitute a waste of the precious time.
They argued that the Supreme Court in a judgment delivered on October 22, had already struck out the name of Uche Nwosu as candidate of the AA in the March 9 governorship election in Imo State.
The respondents also claimed that the appeal of Nwosu lacked merit going by a recent judgment of the Court of Appeal which nullified the candidacy of Nwosu in the governorship election.