Sen. Uche Ekwunife of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) has urged the Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Awka to dismiss the petition of Sen. Victor Umeh of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) against her elections.
Umeh had dragged Ekwunife to the Anambra Election Petitions Tribunal challenging the Ekwunife’s election for the Anambra Central Senatorial District seat.
Ekwunife made the prayer through her counsel, Jude Nnodum SAN during the adoption of final written addresses on the petition in Awka on Wednesday.
Umeh in his petition marked EPT/AN/SEN/16/2019 is challenging the victory of Ekwunife on the grounds that she was not properly nominated by her party and non compliance to the provisions of Electoral Act in the Feb.23 election.
In his argument, Nnodum said the petition should be dismissed as the issue of invalid nomination which they were raising did not arise in the two grounds stated in their petition which included that she was not returned with lawful votes cast.
He said the whole argument on the matter was mere academic exercise as issue of nomination was a pre-election matter in the context of the petition in question and that section 138 (1a) of the Electoral Act was explicit on who was qualified to contest election.
Also addressing the tribunal R.O. Yusuf, counsel to INEC adopted the arguments and prayers of Ekwunife’s lawyer adding that Umeh should be made to pay some punitive cost.
In his address, Ikechukwu Ezechukwu (SAN) counsel to PDP said the breaches the petitioners were talking about belonged to pre-election component of the election process as contained in section 285(14)(a,b,c) of the Electoral Act.
Ezechukwu said Ekwunife was nominated by substitution which was provided for in the electoral law and that Umeh lacked the competence to challenge her nomination because she did not participate in the primary election.
He said Umeh had the opportunity to challenge the perceived faulty nomination by petitioning INEC 14 days after the final list of candidates was published but failed to do so, arguing that the door for that had closed.
Ezechukwu urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition.
But in his response, Patrick Ikwueto (SAN) said the petition had merit and should be upheld.
Ikwueto argued that elections could be questioned on the grounds of corrupt practice and non compliance which was part of the grounds of the petition.
He urged the tribunal to read through the petition again and see that non compliance was the crux of the matter adding that the Supreme Court had already decided on such matters.
Earlier, Ikwueto had drawn the attention of the tribunal to the fact that part of the records of proceedings on the matter which the petitioners obtained was not reflective of what happened.
Nnodum told the court to stand the observation down as there was no application before the tribunal with respect to it.
The tribunal ordered that issued be set aside for the business of the day which was adoption of final written addresses to commence.
Hon. Justice Thelma Okara, chairman of the tribunal reserved ruling on the matter for a yet to be determined date and urged the parties to forward their authorities to the tribunal.
It would be recalled that Umeh had in 2017 went to the tribunal and Court of Appeal to stop Ekwunife, who was already then in senate representing the senatorial district.
He eventually won an election that took him to the senate for the first time, and now trying to achieve the same fate, but time shall tell.