The The National Assembly/State Houses of Assembly Elections Petition Tribunal sitting in Enugu, on Monday delivered its judgement on a petition against the election of Senator Ike Ekweremadu representing Enugu West Senatorial Zone.
The three-man tribunal, in a judgement that lasted for over three hours, held that the former Deputy Senate President was elected with lawful valid votes cast during the February 23, 2019 elections.
Ekweremadu’s election was challenged by Barr. Mrs. Juliet Ibekaku-Nwagwu of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Ibekaku-Nwagwu, a former aide to President Muhammadu Buhari had after the election, approached the Tribunal, alleging that Ekweremadu was not elected by majority of lawful votes cast during the election.
She further claimed that the election was invalid by virtue of non-compliance with the Electoral Act and the INEC guidelines, adding that the said non-compliance substantially affected the conduct of the election, massive thumb-printing of ballot papers to the advantage of Ekweremadu and his party, the PDP.
The APC candidate averred that there were manifest irregularities, infractions by the INEC, inflation of votes in some polling units, alterations, non-dating and wrong-dating of result sheets, and massive thumb-printing of ballot papers in the favour of Ekweremadu and his party, the PDP.
She then asked for an order “setting aside the return of Ekweremadu and an order to the 3rd Respondent, (INEC) to issue her (Ibekaku) with Certificate of Return, or in the alternative order for a fresh election.”
But all the Respondents, countered her assertion, maintaining that the Senator emerged by majority of lawful votes cast during the election.
They said there were substantial compliance in accordance with the Electoral Act, and there were no irregularities that could have substantially affected the conduct of the election.
Delivering its judgement, the tribunal led by Hon. Justice H.H Kerang held that there was an incurable deficit in the pleadings of the petitioners.
It said each of the 16 witnesses called by the petitioners did not tell the tribunal number of votes to be credited in any single polling unit to the petitioner or a single vote to be deducted from that of the respondents.
It added that Ibekaku was not the maker of the documents she tendered and as such “she did not tell us if she was present when any of them was made.”
It said further that out of 825 polling units Enugu West Senatorial Zone, the petitioners merely called witnesses from 4 wards.
The tribunal held that the petitioner must show polling unit by polling unit how non-compliance led to unlawful allocation of votes to the 1st Respondent.
The issue of dating of results was also resolved in favour of the Respondents, as the Tribunal declared that “it is immaterial in our view if any of the result is bearing 23rd of 24th of February, 2019; we don’t see it as non-compliance.
“The petition deserves no other thing rather than that of dismissal; The 1st Respondent was duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast. The petitioners failed to prove non-compliance.”
It declared that, “the election and return of the 1st Respondent as the winner of the Enugu West Senatorial election is hereby upheld.”
It awarded a cost of N250,000 each in favour of the three respondents against the petitioners.