The Governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the 18 March 2023 gubernatorial election in Ebonyi State, Prof Benard Odoh, has tendered his final written address before the Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, stressing that Hon Francis Nwifuru was declared in error as governor by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Odoh had in a petition filed at the Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal challenged the INEC’s declaration of Nwifuru as governor.
The APGA Governorship candidate is equally praying the Court to hold that at the time of the gubernatorial election, Nwifuru was not qualified to contest on the grounds that he was still holding sway as Speaker of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), instead of the All Progressives Congress (APC), under which he was declared as governor by INEC.
In his final written address, which was signed and submitted by his Lead Counsel, J.S. Okutepa SAN, the APGA candidate said it was unknown to any law in Nigeria for INEC to declare Nwifuru governor on the stable of the APC, while he was still retaining his membership in the PDP.
The final written address read in part, “This is the final written address of the Petitioners in this petition.
“Following the election conducted by the 1st Respondent on the 18th day of March 2023, for the office of the Governor of Ebonyi State, the 2nd Respondent (Nwifuru Francis Ogbonna) who was at the time of the election, a member of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly under the platform of the Peoples’ Democratic Party and the Speaker of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly, and who was not qualified to contest the election, was declared by the 1st Respondent as the winner of the election.
“Summarily, the case of the Petitioner is that the 2nd Respondent cannot be qualified to contest the election as the candidate of the 3rd Respondent while being a member of another Political party in gross violation of both the Electoral Act 2022 and the 1999 Constitution as amended. Flowing from the principal ground of complaint, the petitioners sought five (5) reliefs as per paragraph 40 (a-e) of their petition filed before this Hon. Tribunal.
“Upon service of the petition on the Respondents, the 1st Respondent who should ordinarily be an unbiased umpire and a referee, stepped into the arena and decided to play the role of the 2nd and 3rd Respondents, filed a Notice of Preliminary Objection and Reply to the Petition on the 2nd day of May 2023 in response to which the Petitioners filed a Reply on the 15th of May 2023.”