Ike Nnachi, Abakaliki
The Ebonyi State Election Petitions Tribunal is set to deliver its judgment on Wednesday.
Tribunal Secretary, Henry Nwior, confirmed this to Ikengaonline on Tuesday.
He said the Tribunal will begin sitting at 9am.
The Tribunal is expected to rule on two petitions against the election of Governor Francis Nwifuru.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Mr Nwifuru as the winner of the state’s governorship election which held on Marc 18.
Mr Nwifuru polled a total of 199,131 votes across the 13 local councils in the state to beat his closest rival, Mr Ifeanyi of the PDP, who scored 80,191 votes.
The electoral umpire also went ahead to issue Mr Nwifuru a Certificate of Return as Governor-Elect. He was later sworn is as governor on May 29.
But Odii and his party PDP, and the second runner-up, Bernard Odoh, and his party, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) rejected the result and challenged it at the tribunal.
Odoh in his petition is seeking Nwifuru’s disqualification on the grounds of certificate forgery and ineligibility to stand for the election.
He urged the tribunal to disqualify Mr Nwifuru who was declared winner of the said election and also to nullify the said Certificate of return issued to him.
Odoh, a geophysics professor, is of the opinion that Mr Nwifuru, at the time of the election was still a member of the PDP and as such was not eligible to be sponsored for the election by the APC.
He averred that Nwifuru therefore was not qualified to contest the election to the office of the Governor of Ebony State as he belonged to two political parties, which he argued is unconstitutional.
He further alleged that Nwifuru was not qualified to stand for the election as he allegedly submitted fake certificate to INEC.
Mr Odoh therefore prayed the Tribunal to nullify the said election to the office of the Governor of Ebony State held on March 18, 2023.
He also urged the Tribunal to order for a second election pursuant to section 179(3) and (4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended into the office of the Governor of Ebonyi State.
Mr Odoh further urged the Tribunal to declare that the said fresh election should be held between the two candidates who scored the highest number of votes at the election held on the 18th of March 2023.
The APGA candidate also prayed the court for an Order nullifying and/or setting aside the Certificate of Return issued by the INEC to Mr Nwifuru.
In the other petition, the PDP and its candidate, Mr Odii, asked the Tribunal to mandate the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw the certificate of return issued to the Governor.
They also asked the Tribunal to declare Dr Ifeanyi Chukwuma Odii, the winner of the election and return him as the elected Governor of Ebonyi State in the March 18, governorship election.
The Petitioners argued that Mr Nwifuru, was not qualified to contest the election on the platform of the APC as he was still a bonafide member of the Peoples Democratic Party and had not officially defected to any other political party including the APC.
They further averred that Mr Nwifuru, being a serving lawmaker elected on the platform of the PDP to the State House of Assembly, and who had not defected officially at the floor of the House as the law requires, couldn’t have contested election in another party outside the PDP.
The PDP asked the Tribunal to declare that Mr Nwifuru was not qualified to stand for the 2023 governorship election on the platform of the APC as he remained a member of the party and the party never sponsored him for any election in the just concluded 2023 general elections.
The Petitioners also cited a subsisting judgment by Justice Henry Njoku of the Ebonyi State High Court, which ruled that Mr Nwifuru and other lawmakers of Ebonyi State House of Assembly who purportedly defected to the APC are still members of the PDP.
The petitioners also alleged non compliance with the Electoral Act, 2022, by the Independent National Electoral Commission as well as electoral malpractices, among other infractions.
But Mr Nwifuru prayed the court to dismiss the suits for being unmeritorious.
The governor argued that Mr Nwifuru while serving as Speaker of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly, resigned his membership of the PDP and joined the APC before vying for the governorship primary election of the latter.
Mr Nwifuru also presented APC’s membership register containing his details for Enwanweigwe Ward, the governor’s country home.
The Tribunal which began sitting in Abakaliki capital of the state was later moved to the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja following security concerns by the opposition parties.