The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, sitting at the National Judicial Institute (NJI) in Abuja, has reserved its judgement in the petition filed by Benard Ifeanyi Odoh, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
Odoh is challenging the victory of Governor Francis Nwifuru in the March 18, 2023 governorship election in Ebonyi State.
The three-man tribunal panel headed by Justice Adekanye Lekan Ogunmoye on Friday announced that the date for judgement will be communicated to lawyers of all parties involved in the matter.
Recall that, the governorship candidate of APGA, Odoh had through his counsel, Jibrin S. Okutepa filed a 104 paragraph final written address before the governorship election petition tribunal in July.
In his submission, Okutepa based the petition’s argument on Section 177 (c) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
Okutepa, who presented a sole issue for determination; whether the second respondent,Nwifuru,u was qualified to contest the said election, said, “The summary of the petitioners’ petition is that the second respondent, who was until and after the election, a member of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly and also occupied the office of the Speaker of the said house on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was not qualified to contest the election to the seat of Governor of Ebonyi State conducted by the 1st respondent on March 18, 2023, wherein the 2nd respondent was wrongfully returned elected,” he noted.
He stressed that the extensive evidence presented to prove the allegations, including a range of documents (Exhibit P1-P9) in accordance with the provisions of the Evidence Act. Okutepa also noted that Exhibit R6, presented through the testimony of the second Respondent’s witness, further corroborated the allegations.
In response, the counsels representing the second and third Respondents, Onyechi Ikpeazu, and A. A. Ibrahim, SAN, respectively, presented their final addresses and urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition.
Ikpeazu argued against the use of an annulled judgement as the basis for initiating an action, highlighting jurisdictional limitations.
Ibrahim, on his part, cited Section 176(2) of the Electoral Act and stated that the petitioner’s claims lacked sufficient evidence to establish forgery allegations.
Meanwhile, Justice Ogunmoye did apologise for the change in adoption date from Monday to today, Friday, which he blamed on flight cancellations by Airline operators.