The Supreme Court has affirmed Alex Otti’s election as governor of Abia State in a judgement delivered on Friday (today).
The five-member panel of justices, led by Uwani Abba-Aji, dismissed the appeal filed by Okey Ahiwe, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), deeming it lacking in merit.
The apex court also dismissed the appeal filed by Ikechi Emenike, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In March 2023, Otti of the Labour Party (LP) was declared the winner of the Abia governorship election, securing 175,466 votes to defeat Ahiwe of the PDP, who scored 88,529 votes.
Ahiwe and his party contested the election outcome at the tribunal, alleging Otti’s lack of LP membership and forgery of his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) certificate.
The tribunal ruled that the petitioners failed to prove their allegations against Otti and held that the dispute over Otti’s qualification was a pre-election matter beyond the tribunal’s jurisdiction.
In December 2023, the Court of Appeal affirmed Otti’s election.
Former Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, representing the APC and its candidate, Ikechi Emenike, sought to invalidate Otti’s sponsorship by the LP.
The PDP and APC had previously challenged Otti’s victory at the Abia State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal and the Appeal Court but were unsuccessful.
The Appeal Court in Lagos dismissed the appeals, citing the lack of evidence to prove Otti’s non-membership by LP or forged votes. The court affirmed that party membership and sponsorship are pre-election matters and internal affairs of political parties.
Malami urged the Supreme Court to overturn the lower courts’ judgment, arguing Otti and others weren’t constitutionally sponsored by their party. However, the Supreme Court, led by Justice Inyang Okoro, maintained the previous decisions.
Onyechi Ikpeazu, Otti’s counsel, reiterated that the appeal brought by the APC wasn’t unprecedented, citing Supreme Court pronouncements on party internal affairs. PDP’s legal team raised concerns about alleged discrepancies in election results from Obingwa LGA, but the Supreme Court deemed the evidence inadmissible.
Justice Aji emphasized that Otti’s LP membership was duly recorded before the election, dismissing the appeal.
“This appeal shouldn’t have been taken up to this level,” Justice Aji said. He asserted that the lower courts were correct in deeming Otti’s party membership an internal matter.
The apex court further held that the witnesses fielded by the petitioners were incompetent.
“The appeal is hereby dismissed and the judgment of the Appeal Court is hereby affirmed,” the judge held.