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APGA Reps petition: INEC’s testimony is confessional, counsel submits at final address

Its cardinal there shall be a candidate, he insists as APGA, PDP close submissions From Chuks Collins, Awka

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It was indeed a cracker this morning at the Panel One of the National Assembly Elections Petitions tribunal at the presentation and adoption of written final addresses as all the parties in the election petition by the All Progressives Grand Alliance(APGA) candidate for Njikoka/Anaocha/Dunukofia Federal Constituency of Anambra State, Chief Dozie Nwankwo presented their final written addresses.

Chief Nwankwo who stood for the Feb 23,2019 poll, seeking reelection had petitioned the tribunal against the declaration of Mr Valentine Ayika of the PDP as winner of the election instead of himself. He pointed out that PDP had no candidate in the election.

Hinging his submission on what he described as the cardinal constitutional and electoral laws Nwankwo’s lead counsel Chief Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), while adopting his three different written addresses/responses to submissions by other parties in the matter -the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC), the People’s Democratic Party(PDP) and her “candidate” -Valentine Ayika, noted that the testimony of two respective INEC officials during the hearing of the petition was “confessional”.

According to Chief Fagbemi, “it’s cardinal law that there must be a candidate”, as indicated in Sec 65 and Sec 66 of the nation’s Constitution which provided for the qualification of a candidate in an election. While Sec 138(1)a of the Electoral Act says that one can challenge a candidate if you feel he’s not qualified. That this two areas were the reason INEC was constitutionally obligated to display and publish list of candidates in an election for the public to view and register their objections if any. See the Dr Chris Ngige Vs Prof Dora Akunyili matter.

Chief Fagbemi pointed out that even a prosecution witness(PW2), a senior INEC official; and a defense witness (RW1) – also a senior INEC official who was even the Commission’s witness who testified at different stages of the hearing copiously stated in their statements that no name of any PDP candidate was submitted by the party or published by INEC for the Feb 23,2019 House of Representatives election for Njikoka/Anaocha/Dunukofia Federal Constitutency.

He backed his submission with a decided case -Dirry Kelly Vs Adeoye and Anos, and INEC/2 Ors as delivered by Hon Justice I.M.M Saunawa(Dec 1,2016)-here it was held that testimony of the INEC officials, an office that was central to election matters in the country was confessional and inarguable in anyway.

Turning to Exhibit 3R9 which was the Feb 11,2019 Supreme Court judgement which the respondent had all along been hanging unto, Chief Fagbemi pointed out that between Feb 11,2019 and Feb 23,2019(date of the election), there was nowhere it was indicated or mentioned that a copy of the apex court’s verdict was submitted to either the Returning Officer or INEC.

More so, there was no court order about Valentine Ayika(the claimant of PDP candidature) anywhere, but it was all about one Dr Richard Egenti who was never part of the election or petition. And that even the Supreme Court verdict did not return or recognize either Ayika or Egenti.

He also posited that in view of Sec 285(14) of the Constitution as amended, and Sec 89 of the Electoral Act, Ayika and the PDP would have dragged the INEC to court within 14 days of the publication of the final list to complain that his name was omitted and hence compel the commission to publish and display his name.

But for not doing this, the door was therefore shut against him in the election. Because time was of the essence. The Senior Advocate noted that “the effect of this is that all votes purportedly cast in favour of the PDP are wasted…”

He therefore urged the tribunal to declare the candidate with the next highest number of valid votes cast,- that is Chief Dozie Nwankwo as the winner of the election.

Earlier, Mr Fidelis Anyanegbu, one of the counsels to Ayika in his final address maintained that it was clear from all evidence presented that Ayika was “at all times the candidate of the PDP, I therefore urge my Lords to dismiss to dismiss the petition…”

Also, Mr I.A. Onwubuya counsel to PDP, and Mr E. E. Udeh counsel to INEC in their respective submissions urged the three-man tribunal to dismiss Nwankwo’s petition.

The tribunal reserved judgement in the above matter to a date yet to be fixed which according to the chairman would be communicated to all the parties.

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