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Tribunals sack more senators, House members

…3 Abia LP lawmakers, Gana’s son, NNPP’s Dankawu lose seats

• Labour Minister Lalong becomes Senator-Elect

It was a day of sacking galore as various election tribunals gave marching orders to some serving senators and their House of Representatives counterparts.

In Abia State, it is not a good day for the Labour Party as the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sacked three of its House of Representatives members on Monday.

The Tribunal sitting in Umuahia sacked Hon. Ibe Okwara Osonwa (the member representing Arochukwu/Ohafia Federal Constituency) on the grounds that he failed to comply with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022.

The three-member Tribunal, led by Justice Adeyinka Aderegbegbe, declared Chief Daniel Okeke (the petitioner) of the APC the winner of the February 25, 2023, election for the Arochukwu/Ohafia Federal Constituency.

It also ordered INEC to withdraw the certificate of return issued to Osonwa and issue a new one to Okeke.

Similarly, another National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Umuahia sacked the lawmaker representing Aba North/South federal constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Emeka Nnamani of the Labour Party, on the grounds of a falsified certificate.

The three-man tribunal declared Alex Ikwechegh of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, winner of the House of Representatives election for Aba North/South Federal Constituency held on February 25, 2023.

On the other hand, Hon. Munachim Alozie (member representing Osisioma/Obingwa/Ugwunagbo federal constituency) was sacked in the petition filed by Hon. Nwoke Ibe Michael of the YPP, and a rerun was ordered.

The court ordered a rerun within the next 90 days, according to the constitution. The Tribunal noted that the LP candidate was declared in error and therefore cannot stand.

Reading out the judgement, Prof. Muhammad Mahmud, on behalf of the three-man panel headed by Hajaratu Hajjo Lawal, said the number of leads is greater than the number of voters who were disenfranchised in some polling units but collected their Permanent Voters Cards, PVCs.

The candidate of the Young Progressives Party, YPP, Hon. Ibe Michael Nwoke, had approached the court after the declaration of Labour Party’s Munachim Alozie as the winner of the February 25th elections, demanding nullification.

Nwoke prayed the court to, among other things, nullify the election of LP’s Alozie, as he was not duly elected and his election was invalid based on the margin of lead.

While counsel for the YPP’s candidate adjudged the ruling as fair, the LP’s counsel insists on appealing the case.

With the sack of these lawmakers, they join Amobi Ogah, representing Isiukwuato/Umunneochi Federal Constituency, who was sacked last Wednesday.

The Tribunal sacked Ogah as the winner of the Isuikwuato/Umunneochi House of Representatives.

Consequently, the Tribunal declared Nkiru Onyejeocha of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the rightful winner of the seat.

The February 25 House of Representatives election had initially seen Ogah, the Labour Party candidate, declared the winner with 11,822 votes, while Onyejeocha secured 8,752 votes.

However, the tribunal’s ruling invalidated the results earlier declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

In its decision delivered on Wednesday, the Tribunal directed INEC to withdraw the certificate of return previously issued to Ogah and issue a new one to Nkiru Onyejeocha, the APC candidate.

Out of eight House of Representatives seats in Abia State, the LP won six, while the PDP and APC won one each in the last election.

But the member representing Arocukwu/Ohafia Federal Constituency, Hon. Ibe Okwara Onsonwa, has described the judgement of the National Election Petition Tribunal sacking him as not only perverse in all ramifications but also an affront to the established tenets of democracy and the wishes of his constituents.

Ibe, while reacting to the Tribunal judgement on Monday, said his candidacy for the Labour Party had never been in doubt and was reinforced by the Federal High Court sitting in Umuahia in a well-considered judgement delivered on December 4, 2022, in Suit No. FHC/UM/CS/129/2022.

Ibe, in a release he personally signed immediately after the judgement, revealed that he would appeal the judgement, noting that he’s going to the Appeal Court to recover the mandate given to him by a wide majority of the constituents.

He, however, appealed to his supporters to remain calm, as the victory against him will not last and the reasons for his sacking cannot be sustained on the basis of the facts, circumstances of the case, and the extant electoral laws.

According to Ibe, “My attention has just been drawn to a judgment delivered a few minutes ago by the National and State House of Assembly Election Tribunal sitting in Umuahia, comprising Hon.Justice Adeyinka A. Aderibgbe (Chairman), Hon. Justice Kadi Mustaha A. Lalloki (Member I) and Hon. Justice Farouk U. Sarki (Member II).

“I am reliably informed by my team of lawyers that the said judgment, in summary, disqualified my candidacy for the election under the platform of the Labour Party and my return as the winner of the said election as declared by INEC, having garnered the majority of lawful votes cast.

“It will be important to state that at the conclusion of the election in the Arochukwu/Ohafia Federal Constituency, INEC, in their declaration, returned me as the winner with 8,946 votes, while Okeke Chimezie and the APC scored 6,635 votes.

“Following my said disqualification, the Tribunal declared Okeke Chimezie of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of the election and further ordered that the Certificate of Return issued to me be withdrawn and the same issued to the said Okeke Chimezie.

“The Tribunal, I am informed, hinged their judgment on my disqualification under Sections 77(2) and (3) of the Electoral Act, 2022, an issue which the Appellate Courts have severally posited is not for the Election Tribunal but remains in the domain of pre-election matters.

“My candidacy for election under the Labour Party had never been in doubt and was further reinforced by the Federal High Court sitting in Umuahia in a well-considered judgment delivered on 4/12/2022 in Suit No.: FHC/UM/CS/129/2022.

“Today’s Tribunal judgment is not only perverse in all its ramifications but also an affront on the established tenets of democracy and the wish and rights of the good people of the Arochukwu/Ohafia Federal Constituency in choosing their representative at the National Assembly.”

In Plateau State, the National and State Houses of Assembly Election Tribunal sacked the son of Professor Jerry Gana, Rep. Joshua, from the House of Representatives on Monday.

Rep. Joshua Audu Gana was the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for Edati/Lavun/Mokwa Federal Constituency of Niger State in the Feb. 25 general elections.

Gana, who won the election with 47,942 votes as against 40,003 votes scored by the candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Mr Abdullahi Usman Gbatamagi, was declared the winner of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Dissatisfied with the declaration, the APC and its candidate, Gbatamagi, through their counsel, Johnson Usman, SAN, challenged the return of Gana.

The petition is via a petition number: EPT/NG/HR/06/2023, on the ground that the election was invalid by reason of non-compliance with the Electoral Act, 2022, in that the margin of victory was less than the permanent voter cards (PVCs) collected in the polling units where elections did not hold or were cancelled.

Delivering the judgment on Monday, the three-member tribunal headed by Justice Sylvester Godspower agreed with Mr. Usman’s arguments.

The tribunal proceeded to invalidate votes in the 26 polling units of the constituency, thereby reducing the votes of Gana to 46,494 votes while those of Gbatamagi now stood at 39,159 votes, leaving the PVCs collected in the affected polling units at 14,411.

The tribunal consequently set aside the Certificate of Return issued to Joshua Gana by INEC and ordered the commission to conduct a supplementary election in the 26 polling units within 90 days of the judgment with a view to determining the winner of the election.

Also in Kano State, the National and State House of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal has affirmed that Hon. Idris Dankawu of the NNPP forged his West African School Certificate, WAEC, submitted to contest the election of Kumbotso House of Representatives Federal Constituency.

Munir Babba Danagudi filed the petition, praying to the court to declare that Dankawu forged his secondary school certificate to secure admission into Nuhu Bamalli Polytechnic, Kaduna.

In his judgment, Justice I.P. Chima averred that Idris Dankawu of the NNPP forged his WAEC certificate and accordingly voided the election.

The Tribunal ordered INEC to set aside the Certificate of Return given to Dankawu and declare Munir Babba Danagudi the winner of the Kumbotso Federal Constituency election held on February 25th.

“Having satisfied with the provisions of the law, we hereby declare and return Munir Babba Danagudi as the winner of the Kumbotso Federal House Representatives Election.

All parties to bear their own cost, Justice Chima ruled.

Recall that the Tribunal sacked another NNPP Representative, Yusuf Datti, at the weekend for failing to resign from Bayero University, Kano, 30 days before the election.

The current Minister of Labour and Productivity, Mr. Simion Lalong, had a lucky day at the tribunal, as the National and State Petition Election Tribunal sitting in Jos on Monday sacked the senator representing Plateau South, Napoleon Bali, and declared Lalong the winner of the February 25 Parliamentary election.

Lalong, a former Plateau State governor who was Director-General of the Tinubu/Shettima Campaign, was among the seven governors declared losers of the senatorial elections.

Tinubu had subsequently appointed him as Minister of Labour.

Bali contested the election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), while Lalong ran under the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The tribunal also sacked Peter Gyendeng as a member representing Barikin Ladi/Riyom federal constituency of the House of Representatives and declared Fom Dalyop of the Labour Party (LP), who became second in the February 25 general elections in the state, as the winner.

In their separate rulings, Justice Omaka Elekwo and Justice Muhammad Tukur nullified the election of the two PDP candidates because of the party’s refusal to respect the order of the Jos High Court to conduct ward congresses before the last general elections.

The Justices therefore said the evidence presented by the APC and LP candidates was relevant and admissible.

Agency Report

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