By Mike Ubani
The Election Petition Tribunal, sitting in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi state capital, yesterday ordered the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) to issue Comrade Chinedu Ogah, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for Ikwo/Ezza South Federal Constituency in the February 23, 2019, general elections with a Certificate of Return.
The three-man panel headed by Hon. Justice Sika Henry Aprioko, ruled that Ogah scored 36,238 valid votes to defeat Hon. Lazarus Ogbe, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the election, who scored 33,263 votes.
The AUTHORITY recalls that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had previously declared Hon. Ogbe winner of the election.
But the APC candidate challenged the declaration of Ogbe winner of the election before the tribunal, alleging that the total votes he scored in some of the polling units was reduced in favour of the PDP candidate.
In the ruling that lasted for about three hours, the tribunal declared that based on the evidence before it, the votes of the petitioner were unjustifiably reduced, and therefore, restored the votes in favour of the petitioner.
It chided INEC for failure to enter the results obtained from some of the polling units on the basis that elections in those areas were marred with violence.
According to the tribunal, “if there was violence in those areas, it would have affected results of the Presidential and Senatorial elections which were held the same day alongside the House of Representatives election.
“The Returning Officer has no power not to enter the results emanating from those polling units.”
The tribunal also dismissed Ogbe’s claim that the petitioner forged the results of the election, saying that the police report allegedly confirming the forgery was not tendered before the tribunal.
“The respondents failed to prove the allegation that results of the election presented by the petitioner were concocted,” the tribunal ruled.
After re-computing the lawful votes scored by each candidate, the tribunal ruled that it was satisfied that the candidate of the APC scored the majority votes, and therefore, declared him winner of the election.
It ordered INEC to issue the APC candidate with the Certificate of Return, while at the same time it ordered the electoral umpire to withdraw the Certificate of Return erroneously issued to the candidate of the PDP.