Nigeria: Tribunal Affirms Orji's Mandate, Dismisses Nwaogu's Petition

11 September 2019

Umuahia — A National and State Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal (Panel 1) sitting in Umuahia, Abia State yesterday affirmed the election of Senator Theodore Orji as the winner of the February 23 election for Abia Central Senatorial District.

Orji, a senator of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), contested the February poll for the renewal of his mandate and emerged victorious.

But the opposition candidate, Senator Nkechi Nwaogu, was dissatisfied with the outcome of the poll and together with her party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) filed petitions at the tribunal seeking the nullification of the result.

The petitioner, who is the Pro-chancellor, University of Calabar, was seeking to return to the senate and alleged that the election was fraught with irregularities and non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act.

But ruling on the petitions, the Tribunal Chairman, Justice Adeyinka Adebirigbe, who read the unanimous judgement, held that the petitioner failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt her claims that the election of the first respondent was invalid due to non-compliance with the electoral law.

The tribunal stated that "there is no evidence" to void the result of the 2019 Abia Central Senatorial poll as declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The tribunal said the petitioner could not even bring the proper witnesses to testify for her as only one out of the 19 witnesses she assembled was a polling unit agent, while others were supervisors and collation agents.

In his reaction to the tribunal verdict, Orji said he had always believed in the judiciary as the dispenser of justice and commended the tribunal for its dispassionate verdict

Orji, who spoke through his media adviser, Mr. Eddie Onuzuruike, said the tribunal judgement has lent credence to the choice made by the good people of Abia North in renewing his mandate.

Meanwhile, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, whose petition led to the nullification of the mandate of Senate Chief Whip, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, has hailed the judgment as "a triumph for justice and democracy."

Ohuabunwa, in a statement by his Director General, Follow Better Campaign Organisation, Dr. Ndubusi Eke, noted that the judiciary had once again proved itself as the last hope of the common man.

The former Speaker, ECOWAS Parliament said he went to the tribunal "to get justice," expressing satisfaction that justice has been done not only for him but for the people of Abia North.

He said the judgment was a further illustration that "truth will always triumph over falsehood no matter how long it takes."

"The judiciary has again shown that it remains the last hope for the common man, and a critical stakeholder in our democracy.

"It has spoken in clear terms that Abia North Senatorial election could only pass for a charade, considering the massive rigging by the man who claimed victory over the poll.

"The judiciary has again made a loud statement that no one can subvert the will of the people and be allowed to get away with it."

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