Ugochinyere Suffers Miscarriage of Justice

The Imo State National and State House of Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal last Sunday nullified the election of a member of the House of Representatives, Ikenga Ugochinyere of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The tribunal, consequently, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a supplementary election within 90 days.

The three-member panel of judges, in a unanimous decision, held that Ugochinyere was not validly nominated by the PDP to contest the Ideato North/South Federal Constituency election held on 25 February.

Justice Anthony Akpovi, who chaired the panel, concluded that the PDP and its candidate should be excluded from the supplementary election.

Recall that insecurity had forced the PDP to conduct their primary elsewhere. Secondly, before the primary, Ugochinyere’s residence and personal and campaign vehicles in his hometown were razed down by gunmen who were on a mission to assassinate him.

Insecurity had also forced the tribunal to sit in Nasarawa State instead of Imo State.

Yet, curiously, the same tribunal, had in its judgment sacked Ugochinyere, citing the failure of the PDP to hold the primary that produced him in his constituency.

Many legal analysts could not understand how some lower courts would so blatantly ignore legal precedence.

 The Appeal Court and Supreme Court had on several cases on “not validly nominated” or “improper nomination” called the petitioners “meddlesome interlopers.”

They went further to rule that whoever a political party decides to bring forward during election, is its prerogative.

Very recently, the Presidential Election Petitions Court (PEPC) ruled in Vice President Kashim Shettima’s case, that the issue of nominating or not nominating a candidate validly by a political party is a pre-election matter and an internal affair of the party, which can only be challenged within 14 days of such nomination at a Federal High Court.

The issue of challenging the nomination of a candidate is an option usually left for the candidate’s co- contestant in the same party.

In many of its previous judgments, the Supreme Court also described the likes of the APC candidates who challenged Peter Obi and Ugochinyere on the grounds of invalid nomination by their parties as a “busy body,” and a “meddlesome interloper,” who is “peeping into the internal affairs” of his neighbours.

Many believe that the tribunal judgment in Ugochinyere’s case will be quashed by the Appeal Court if there is not inducement or influence.

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