The National Assembly Elections Petition Tribunal sitting in Enugu on Saturday dismissed the petition brought to it by the People for Democratic Change (PDC) House of Representatives candidate for Nkanu East and Nkanu West Federal Constituency, Mr. Nnoli Nnaji challenging the declaration of Dr. Chukwuemeka Ujam of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as winner of the March 28 election forNkanu East and West federal constituency by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
A soldier had testified before the tribunal on how Ujam was accosted by military troops on election duty with 4,000 permanent voters cards (PVCs) in the morning of the election at the Ozalla expressway junction in the constituency, only to be released with the cards following a directive “from above”, lending credibility to pictures of the incident which had gone viral on the internet.
Ujam, a former Commissioner for Lands in the immediate past administration of ex-governor Sullivan Chime is also facing criminal prosecution at the Federal High Court in Enugu over the alleged illegal possession of INEC PVCs.
In the tribunal’s judgement, Justice Abba Bello Mohammed of the FCT High Court, who was a member of the three-man panel that heard the petition, dismissed the petition with N50,000 awarded to each of the four respondents.
In the judgment that lasted for about two and half hours, Justice Mohammed said that several prayers were contained in the petition filed by Nnaji which were struck out during trial leaving only two for determination. These, he said, centred on whether Ujam was qualified to contest the election on the ground that he did not win in the PDP primaries which produced Princess Peace Nnaji as the party’s flag-bearer for Nkanu East and Nkanu West Federal Constituency.
The tribunal, however, agreed with the exhibits submitted by the petitioner which showed that Princess Nnaji scored 83 votes against 20 scored by the respondent (Ujam) but ruled that he (Nnaji) did not have the right to determine to a political party other than his who should fly its flag and how it should conduct its primaries.
He held that the tribunal could therefore not nullify the election as prayed as that would amount to interfering in political party affairs more so when the issue canvassed was a pre-election matter.
Reacting to the tribunal’s verdict, Counsel for the Petitioner, Ike Aroh, told the lower tribunal that his client was not satisfied with the judgment and would therefore appeal it.
One of Ujam’s counsels, Mr. Ikechukwu Onuma, however, described the judgment as sound and representative of the will of the people that voted for the lawmaker.