Appeal Court affirms election of Emeka Ihedioha as Imo State governor
• Says Ararume, Uzodinma, Uche fail to prove allegations
The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on Tuesday upheld the election of Emeka Ihedioha as governor of Imo State.
The five-member panel in separate judgments dismissed the three appeals filed by the Action Alliance (AA) and its governorship candidate, Uche Nwosu, All Progressive Congress (APC) and its governorship candidate, Hope Uzodinma and that of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Ifeanyi Ararume.
While that of the AA and APGA were dismissed in a unanimous judgment, that of APC was dismissed in a four-to-one split judgment.
The appellate court held that the appellants failed to establish corrupt malpractices, non-compliance with the electoral laws and failure to secure majority lawful votes cast at the election.
The panel led by Justice Oyebisi Omoleye held that they had no reason to fault the findings and conclusions of the state Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, that the governor scored 273, 404 votes to emerge victorious in the March 9 governorship election in Imo State.
The panel further held that it has no reason to depart from the findings of the tribunal that evidence adduced at the tribunal were hearsay and that the court cannot tolerate hearsay evidence in any election petition.
The panel accordingly dismissed the appeals and affirmed the judgments of the tribunal which upheld the declaration of Emeka Ihedioha as the winner of the Imo State governorship election.
Nwosu, Uzodinma and Ararume had in their separate appeals asked the appellate court to void the election of Ihedioha on grounds that he did not obtain the constitutional one-quarter of the votes in at least two-thirds of the 27 local government areas of the state, in line with Section 179 of the Constitution.
In their various submissions by their counsel, the appellants are asking the court to set aside the decision of the tribunal and declare the winner of the March 9 governorship election or in the alternative order the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a fresh election into the office of Governor of Imo State.
The three-man panel of the tribunal had in a unanimous decision delivered on September 21, held that Ihedioha was lawfully declared the winner of the governorship election by INEC.
The panel chaired by Justice Malami Dongondaji, had in the judgment dismissed Ararume, Nwosu and Uzodinma’s petitions for lacking in merit on the grounds that they failed to prove allegations made in their petitions.
Apart from their claims that Ihedioha did not obtain the constitutional one-quarter of the votes in at least two-thirds of the 27 local government areas of the state, in line with the provisions of the law, the petitioners had also alleged substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act and Guidelines, including other irregularities.
But the tribunal in its judgment held that the case of the petitioners was unmeritorious because they failed to call relevant witnesses and that evidence of witnesses called were based on hearsay.
The tribunal, in addition, rejected documents tendered by the petitioners in support of their claims on the grounds that those who led evidence in the documents were not the makers of the documents.
In his appeal, Ararume urged the appellate court to upturn the decision of the tribunal on the grounds that the lower court erred in law when it arrived at the decision that his case and that of his party lacked merit and accordingly dismissed it.
The appeal which was predicated on 22 grounds was argued by his lead lawyer, Awa Kalu, SAN, while that of Nwosu and AA, was argued by Niyi Akintola SAN and that of Uzodinma and APC, argued by Damian Dodo SAN.
They all urged the panel to allow the appeal and grant all the reliefs sought by the appellants.
However, lead counsel to Emeka Ihedioha and Peoples Democratic Party, Onyechi Ikpeazu SAN and K.C.O. Njemanze SAN respectively urged the court to dismiss the appeals for being incompetent and lacking in merit.
The respondents submitted that the appeal of the AA and Nwosu, in particular, constitute a waste of the precious time of the court since the Supreme Court in a judgment delivered on October 22, had already struck out the name of Uche Nwosu as candidate of the AA in the March 9 governorship election in Imo State.
The respondents also claimed that the appeal of Nwosu lacked merit going by a recent judgment of the Court of Appeal which nullified the candidacy of Nwosu in the governorship election.
Justice Omoyele after taken submissions of counsel in the matter announced that judgment will be delivered in a date that will be communicated to parties.