The election petition tribunal sitting in Enugu on Monday upheld the victory of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate for Enugu West Senatorial District, Ike Ekweremadu, in the 2019 National Assembly election.
In a unanimous judgement, the panel held that the appellant and candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mrs Juliet Ibekaju-Nwagwu, who challenged the return of Ekweremadu, failed to prove that there was substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act in the conduct of the election.
The three-man panel comprising Justice Haruna Kereng, Justice Yusuf Isa, and Justice Sedoten Ogunsoya, affirmed that Ekweremadu was duly elected and also awarded N250,000 cost against the petitioner in favour of Ekweremadu, PDP, and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
On the contention by the petitioners that the dating of the result sheets on February 23 and 24, 2019 meant that collation was still ongoing when INEC declared the results of the election, and thus amounted to non-compliance, the Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Kereng, who delivered the judgment, held that evidence on all sides showed that the election was held on February 23, but the collation of results, which started on that same day extended to February 24.
Referring to the INEC Guidelines, the Tribunal held said that the election was a process, and ended when the final result was declared on February 24.
The panel also addressed the issue of alleged over-voting, tendered by the petitioners, stressing that the documents issued remained in their envelopes after they were tendered and no reference was made to them by any of the petitioners’ witnesses.
Meanwhile, Justice Kereng held that evidence relating to the issue of accreditation, showed that the exercise was done with both the card reader and the voters’ register, noting that the law was now trite that card reader was not conclusive proof of total number of accredited voters.
The Tribunal further observed that the petitioners did not plead any facts or figures about alleged miscalculation or error in votes.
The panel also noted that whereas the petition relied so much on allegations of crime levelled against unnamed persons, those persons were not joined in the petition and were not disclosed throughout the trial. It also added that assuming any such crimes were committed, Ibeakaku-Nwagwu and APC did not prove that alleged suspects were agents of Ekweremadu or the PDP, hence failed to satisfy the principle of the law on this issue or prove such beyond reasonable doubt.
Justice Kereng therefore said that in view of the evidences before it, it had no other option than to dismiss the petition and affirm the election and return of the Ekweremadu as Senator for Enugu West Senatorial District.