Breaking: Supreme Court affirms Nwifuru as Ebonyi State Governor

Abuja- The Supreme Court, on Friday, affirmed the election victory of Governor Francis Nwifuru of Ebonyi State.

The court, in its lead judgement that was delivered by Justice Tijjani Abubakar, dismissed two separate appeals that sought to sack Nwifuru of the All Progressives Congress, APC, from office.

It held that the appeals were “patently unmeritorious.”

The appeals, which challenged the return of Nwifuru as the valid winner of the governorship poll that held in the state on March 18, 2023, were lodged by candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Ifeanyi Odii, as well as his counterpart from the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Prof. Benard Odoh.

The Supreme Court held that it found no reason to set aside the concurrent verdicts of the Ebonyi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal and the Court of Appeal, which upheld Nwifuru’s election.

It will be recalled that the Independent National Election Commission, INEC, declared that Nwifuru polled a total of 199,131 votes across the 13 Local Government Areas of the state to beat his closest rival, Dr. Odii of the PDP, who scored 80,191 votes.

Dissatisfied with the outcome of the poll, both candidates of the PDP and APGA approached the tribunal to challenge the outcome of the election.

The petitioners, among other things, sought Nwifuru’s disqualification on the grounds of certificate forgery and his alleged ineligibility to stand for the election.

The petitioners told the tribunal that Nwifuru’s election victory was characterised by corrupt practices, alleging that there was substantial non-compliance with provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022.

Besides, they argued that Nwifuru did not validly resign from the PDP before he was nominated as the governorship candidate of the APC.

According to the petitioners, Nwifuru, being a PDP member at all material times before the governorship poll, was not eligible under Section 177(c) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, to have been sponsored by the APC to contest as its flag-bearer.

They told the tribunal that prior to the governorship contest, Nwifuru, who was elected into the Ebonyi State House of Assembly in 1999, served as Speaker while on the ticket of the PDP until May 2023.

They argued that Nwifuru was, at the time of the election, still a member of the PDP and, as such, was not eligible to be sponsored for the election by the APC.

Consequently, the PDP and its candidate, in the joint petition they filed through their legal team led by Chief Chris Uche, SAN, prayed to the tribunal to declare that they were the valid winners of the governorship election.

They further prayed to the court to withdraw the Certificate of Return that was issued to Governor Nwifuru by INEC and issue a fresh one to Dr. Odii.

More so, the petitioners cited a subsisting judgement of a High Court in Ebonyi State, delivered by Justice Henry Njoku, which they said held that Nwifuru and other lawmakers in the state who purportedly defected to the APC are still members of the PDP.

Likewise, APGA and its candidate, Odoh, prayed to the tribunal to nullify the election and order a fresh one.

However, the tribunal, on September 27, 2023, dismissed all the petitions as lacking in merit.

According to the tribunal, the petitioners failed to establish their allegations that the APC candidate did not secure the majority of lawful votes that were cast at the election.

The tribunal noted that some of the grounds of the petitions were pre-election issues that were not only within the realm of domestic affairs of a political party but equally not justiceable.

It held that the petitioners lacked the locus standi to challenge the nomination of Governor Nwifuru by the APC to contest the election.

The tribunal added that the petitioners failed to produce evidence and details of the polling units where the alleged infractions occurred.

The judgement of the tribunal was subsequently upheld by the Court of Appeal, a development that led to the appeals the Supreme Court dismissed on Friday.

Vanguard News

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