The Governorship Elections Petition Tribunal sitting in Abakaliki on Friday, upheld the election of Gov. Dave Umahi of Ebonyi in the April 11 gubernatorial elections.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Umahi’s election was challenged at the tribunal by the Labour Party's candidate, Chief Edward Nkwegu.
Nkwegu had prayed the tribunal to either annul the election or declare him the winner of the polls due several electoral malpractice and violence perpetrated by the respondent’s party .
The Tribunal Chairman, Justice Theresa Igoche in a judgment, that lasted more than eight hours, dismissed the petition for "lack of merit’’.
Igochie ruled that the petitioner could not prove that incidences of violence, which he claimed marred the election and contributed to his loss at the polls.
“The petitioner claimed that two Labour Party polling agents, Messrs Monday Ojo and Kalu Orji, were killed by agents of the respondent’s party at Afikpo North Local Government Area.
“The petitioner could not, however, prove that the polling agents were killed by the agents of respondent’s party, as the evidences he provided were insufficient,” she said.
The tribunal chairman also said the petitioner could not mention the identities of the people he claimed had perpetrated irregularities on behalf of the respondent and his party.
“The petitioner claimed that the respondent’s party and its agents, engaged in electoral irregularities such as manual voting, double thumb printing, snatching of ballot boxes among other irregularities.
“He could not however prove the specific polling units where the irregularities were committed and the identities of those who allegedly perpetrated the aforementioned irregularities.”
She said the petitioner could also not provide the actual number of votes that he claimed were dubiously awarded to the respondent, as against the actual votes cast during the election.
“The petitioner could not prove incidences of electoral fraud at the various LGA of the state, as the evidences he submitted could not substantially prove incidences of irregularities in these areas.
“The petitioner’s prayer for the nullification or his declaration as the authentic winner of the election, is hereby not granted as the petition is dismissed for lack of merit,” she ruled.
Mr Arthur Okafor, Counsel to the first respondent (Umahi) commended the tribunal for the judgment, noting that it was delivered according to proven principles of law.
Mr Ikeazor Arouwe, the Petitioner’s Counsel urged the tribunal to make available to his team, copies of the judgment to enable it study and determine its, "next line of action’’.
NAN reports that security was tightened in Abakaliki and other parts of the town prior to the judgment, as tension rose in the state over its outcome.
Heavily armed security personnel cordoned off major roads leading to the state government house, tribunal complex and major government institutions and facilities.
Umahi in his reaction, dedicated the victory to God and noted that it would motivate him to continue delivering dividends of democracy to the people.