By David Uka Abakaliki
The National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Abakaliki,Ebonyi State has dismissed the petition filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) Candidate for Abakaliki/Izzi Federal Constituency in the 2019 General elections,Mr. Uchenna Nshi, against the election of Hon. Sylvester Ogbaga of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Mr. Nshi had petitioned Mr. Ogbaga to the Tribunal seeking the declaration of the election that produced him invalid by reasons of corrupt practices, intimidation of voters, violence, non compliance to the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and unlawful alterations of results in favour of Ogbaga.
He further urged the court to set aside the results of polling units, wards and Local Governments as declared by the 1st Respondent (INEC) which gave the 2nd Respondent victory based on the above grounds.
Ogbaga the House of Representatives was the Second Respondent.
Delivering Judgement on the petition, the Chairman of the three man panel, Justice Sika Henry Aprioku held that the petition lacked merit as the Petitioner failed to bring preponderance of evidence to prove his case.
On the allegation of criminal alterations of results in favour of the 2nd Respondent, the Tribunal held that the Petitioner was unable to discharge the burden of proofs as he failed to bring credible evidence or witnesses to back his claims.
The tribunal also held that the allegations of corrupt practices, non compliance with Electoral Act 2010 as amended and Guidelines for the election was not substantiated by the Petitioner, even as he did not prove to the court how they affected the outcome of the election.
He said the testimonies of the petitioner’s witnesses on the alleged corrupt practices and non compliance to the Electoral Act and Guidelines amounted to hearsay as they confirmed during cross examination that they were not present at the polling units where the infractions took place and accordingly, are unreliable and cannot be attached any probative value.
The Tribunal therefore, ruled that the election of the 2nd Respondent, Hon. Ogbaga, was valid by reason of the failure of the Petitioner to discharge the burden proves of non compliance to the Electoral Act and Guidelines, malpractices, and criminal alterations of the election results.
Accordingly, the petition was dismissed for lacking in merit.
The Tribunal also awarded the cost of N150,000 each in favour of the 1st and second Respondents while N20,000.00 cost was awarded in favour of the 3rd Respondent.
Reacting to the Judgement, Hon. Ogbaga described it as the reaffirmation of the verdict of INEC that conducted the election.
He urged the petitioner not to see the dismissal of his petition by Tribunal as a loss; rather, he should work with him as a younger brother and in-law for the good of the constituency, as he has the capacity to protect their interests.
Also reacting, Counsel to the Petitioner, Barrister Mbam Pius, who held brief for the lleaded Counsel, Michael Odoh, said when they get a copy of the judgement, they would decide whether to taste its veracity in the appellate court or not.