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The Anambra State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal yesterday dismissed petition challenging the election of Governor Willie Obiano.
The tribunal dismissed the application of the factional candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, (APGA), Dr. Chike Obidigbo, his All Progressives Congress (APC) counterpart, Dr. Chris Ngige and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the election, Mr. Tony Nwoye, for lacking in merit.
In the first judgment read by the Justice Ishaq Bello-led tribunal on the matter between Obidigbo and Obiano, he stated that Obiano was validly nominated as the candidate of APGA, and that the election that brought him to office was conducted in compliance with the Electoral Act as amended.
Justice Bello held that Obidigbo’s petition was a pre-election matter, hence not meant for the tribunal but for a conventional court.
He had few weeks ago ruled out the petition in same lines.
The Justice lso dismissed the issue of multiple registration, saying no criminal charges were brought against Obiano before any Magistrate or High Court in the state.
The tribunal also struck out the petition brought before it by Ngige for lack of evidence.
Contrary to the claims of Ngige’s counsel that the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) lacked the power to extend the date of election, the tribunal held that INEC had the power to do so.
It held that in the case of unforeseen circumstances, the important thing was that the election should be in consonance with the electoral guideline.
Already, Obidigbo confirmed to journalists yesterday that he was heading to Court of Appeal immediately to challenge the tribunal judgment.
Also, the Supreme Court would, this morning, determine an earlier appeal brought before it by Obidigbo against Obiano on the issue of who was the validly nominated candidate of the party APGA, an aspect that was earlier struck out by the tribunal.
This followed a 12-hour notice of judgement given by the tribunal yesterday fixing the judgment a day ahead of the hearing of our cross appeal at the Supreme Court ,as well as our defence of our Court of Appeal victory in the apex court all connected to issues within the trial.
Reacting to the jugdment, the immediate governor of the state, Mr. Peter Obi, who is attending a charity conference overseas described the judgment as the will of the people voiced out through the tribunal. Obi called on the people of the state to continue to support the APGA, government.
He equally called on the state government, to see the judgment as a vote for continuity in doing good for the people of the state.
Also reacting to the victory of Obiano against Obidigbo, the National Chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Umeh, said the judgment of the tribunal had vindicated his party and absolved it of any wrong doing in fielding Obiano.
“We have been vindicated, we sponsored only one candidate in the election, and that is Obiano, and he is the winner. We won the election in a landslide victory, and the tribunal has confirmed so.
“For Obidigbo, he was ignorant of the law and the electoral process to have brought this petition to the tribunal, because we never sponsored him at all. All their claims and noise that we sponsored him has fallen today because all the submissions by his counsel and ours were reviewed.
“He was trying to rely on a particular judgment to say that he is the valid candidate of the party, but he did not bring it to court, he knew what would have happened to him if he had brought it.
“With this victory in the state the party is set to do very well in the next general election,” he said.
Meanwhile, Obiano, his Commissioner for Sports, Tony Nnacheta, and their party, APGA, stalled hearing yesterday in the suit challenging Obiano’s competence to participate in the last governorship election in the state.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court in Abuja had last Tuesday, after refusing Nnacheta’s application to be made a co-plaintiff in the suit, decided to hear all applications along with the substantive case so as to fast track the hearing of the case.
Yesterday, parties were expected to argue their pending applications and the substantive suit only for lawyers to Nnacheta, APGA and Obiano, to raise new issues in what seemed to be a strategy to delay the hearing of the case.
Shortly after lawyers announced their appearances, lawyer to Nnacheta, Smart Iheanzor, informed the court that he had filed an affidavit of facts, intended to inform the court about the steps he had taken in respect of the court’s decision the previous day.
He told the court that the affidavit contained information to the effect that his client had appealed the court’s refusal to make him a party in the case, and that he had also filed an application for stay of proceedings pending appeal.
Iheanzor said the application was filed shortly before the court commenced proceedings.
APGA’s lawyer, C. T. Mbaeri, equally informed the court about an application filed by his client shortly before the court sat, urging the court to reverse its earlier decision to hear pending applications with the substantive suit.
Sensing that the applications by Nnacheta and APGA were intended to stall the court’s business for the day, plaintiffs’ lawyer, Olusola Oke, urged the court to allow him reply orally if the applicants were ready to proceed with the applications they filed shortly before the court began sitting.
When asked if he was equally ready for the hearing of the fresh applications, Obiano’s lawyer, Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), said he needed time to study the new applications.
He urged the court to adjourn the case.
The judge later discovered that the applications referred to by Iheanzor and Mbaeri were not yet in the court’s file.
He however agreed to hear the applications since parties did not dispute the fact that they have been filed.
He consequently adjourned to June 11.
The plaintiffs, Ugochukwu Ikegwuonu and Keneth Moneke, had filed the suit before the governorship election held on November 16 last year asking the court to disqualify Obiano as a candidate in the election for being in possession of two voter registration cards.
Before hearing could commence in the case, Nnacheta, who claimed to have participated in the governorship primaries as an aspirant and lost to Obiano, sought to be added a plaintiff in the suit.