• Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

Supreme Court affirms APC’s Nwifuru as Ebonyi Governor

Nwifuru celebrates Ogbuinya, makes case for increased judiciary funding

The Supreme Court has affirmed Francis Nwifuru of All Progressives Congress as the governor of Ebonyi state.

The Apex Court upheld the judgement of Ebonyi State Election Petitions Tribunal in Abuja and the Appeal Court in response upholding Nwifuru’s victory in an appeal filed by Chukwuma Ifeanyi Odii of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced Francis Nwifuru winner of the poll with 199,131 votes.

Odii and the PDP challenged the outcome, citing non-compliance with the Electoral Act 2022 and alleged discrepancies in the vote count.

The crux of the dispute centered on Nwifuru’s eligibility to contest under the APC, with the PDP claiming he was still a member of their party during the election.

However, the APC presented evidence that Nwifuru had resigned from the PDP while serving as Speaker of the State House of Assembly, subsequently defecting to the APC before their primary election.

The Election Petitions Tribunal, chaired by Justice Lekan, had ruled that issues related to nomination and sponsorship by a political party are pre-election matters that should have been addressed before the election, and therefore, the Tribunal lacked jurisdiction to entertain them.

Furthermore, the Tribunal emphasized that political party membership is a non-justiciable issue and cited the failure of the PDP to appeal a Federal High Court judgment acknowledging Nwifuru’s defection to the APC.

Addressing allegations of overvoting, mutilation, and result inflation, the Tribunal noted the petitioners’ failure to provide evidence of defective or unstamped polling unit result sheets. The appeal court, in dismissing Odii’s case, reiterated that overvoting must be substantiated with evidence from the Voters Register, the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System report, and Form EC8As.

Justice Tijani Abubakar, leading the Supreme Court judgment, emphasized the internal nature of political party affairs, supporting the Tribunal’s decision not to delve into the governor’s party membership.

Regarding electoral malpractice, Justice Abubakar stated, “The appellants have not succeeded in establishing any case of electoral non-compliance.” The appeal was ultimately deemed non-meritorious and dismissed.