Sen. Uche Ekwunife of the PDP on Wednesday urged the Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Awka, to dismiss the petition filed by Sen. Victor Umeh of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), challenging her election.
Ekwunife made the prayer through her counsel, Jude Nnodum, SAN, while adopting her final written addresses in the petition in Awka.
Umeh had in his petition marked EPT/AN/SEN/16/2019 challenged Ekwunife’s victory on the grounds that she was not properly nominated by her party and non-compliance to the provisions of Electoral Act in the Feb.23 election.
However, Nnodum said the petition should be dismissed as the issue of invalid nomination which the petitioner raised, did not arise in the two grounds stated in their petition.
He argued that Ekwenife was not returned with lawful votes cast.
Nnodum said the whole argument in the matter was mere academic exercise as the issue of nomination was a pre-election matter in the context of the petition in question.
He said that section 138 (1a) of the Electoral Act is explicit on who is qualified to contest election.
Addressing the tribunal, R.O. Yusuf, counsel to INEC adopted the prayers of Ekwunife’s lawyer, adding that Umeh should be made to pay some punitive cost.
Ikechukwu Ezechukwu, SAN, counsel to PDP said the breaches the petitioners were talking about belonged to pre-election component of the election process as contained in section 285(14)(a,b,c) of the Electoral Act.
Ezechukwu said Ekwunife was nominated by substitution which was provided for the electoral law.
He said Umeh lacked the competence to challenge her nomination because he did not participate in the primary election.
The PDP counsel said Umeh had the opportunity to challenge the perceived faulty nomination by petitioning INEC 14 days after the final list of candidates was published but failed to do that.
He argued that the door for that had closed and urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition.
But in his response, Patrick Ikwueto, SAN, counsel to Umeh, said the petition had merit and should be upheld.
Ikwueto argued that elections could be questioned on the grounds of corrupt practice and non-compliance which was part of the grounds of the petition.
He urged the tribunal to read through the petition again and see that non-compliance was the crux of the matter, adding that the Supreme Court had already decided on such matters.
Earlier, Ikwueto had drawn the attention of the tribunal to the fact that part of the records of proceedings on the matter which the petitioners obtained was not reflective of what happened.
Nnodum told the court to stand the observation down as there was no application before the tribunal with respect to that.
The tribunal ordered that issued be set aside for the business of the day which was adoption of final written addresses to commence.
After listening to all arguments in the matter, Justice Thelma Okara, chairman of the tribunal reserved ruling in the matter for a yet to be determined date.
Okara urged the parties to forward their authorities to the tribunal.