Outrage has greeted the ruling by Justice Anthony Akpovi-led three-man panel of the Imo State National/State Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal, which used a pre-election matter of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to strike out a suit filed by its candidate for Ideato North State constituency seat.
Recall that the three-member panel used same pre-election issue to nullify the election of a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, of the PDP representing Ideato North/South Federal constituency of Imo State, who earlier defeated the APC and Labour Party candidates with a landslide and declared winner of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Regarding the matter, the Supreme Court in December last year declared Ugochinyere as the authentic candidate of the PDP, for the Ideato North and South federal constituency. In a judgment by a five-member panel of the apex court Justices, they held that there were no grounds put before the panel to nullify the ticket of the party in the custody of Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, having fulfilled all the provisions of the law and complied with stipulated guidelines.
Also recently, the Presidential Election Petitions Court (PEPC) ruled in Vice President Kashim Shettima’s case, that the issue of nomination 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.
But, the JusticemAkpovi-led panel has again ignored legal precedence, using same pre-election issue to strike out the case of the PDP candidate for Ideato North State constituency seat in the Imo State House Of Assembly, Barr. Kanayo Nwankwo, whose mandate was believed to have been stolen by the APC by purportedly inflating results in polling units already won and uploaded for the PDP.
The Tribunal at its sitting in Mararaba in Nasarawa State on October 1, 2023 used the already decided pre-election issues of venue of primaries to strike out the suit, knowing fully well that APC lacks the locus to challenge the issue of venue of where PDP held its primary election because its a pre-election issue.
As condemnation and anger trail the ruling, the African Centre for Justice and Human Rights (ACJHR) led by Comrade Abubakar Musa said: “We have alerted the National Judicial Council, NJC and lovers of justice to check the judgments coming from sister courts in same Imo Election tribunal where the other courts working with Akpovi have affirmed election and venue of PDP candidates primary and dismissed the cases of LP and APC on the ground that issue of primary venue are pre election issues which their court lacks jurisdiction to entertain, hence the question is why is Akpovi acting differently on same issues that other courts hearing same case with him on Imo have affirmed?
“The ACJHR praises supreme court and appeal court including other heroic judges who have refused to depart from clearly established constitutional principles and judicial precedent on what constitutes pre election.
“We call for removal and banning of Akpovi from continuing to preside over election petition matters or serious judicial proceedings including being considered for any controversial reward or elevation to appeal court as such will undermine the judicial process and promote acts that undermines the integrity of the judicial process and honour of hardworking judges.”