The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its governorship candidate in the just-concluded 2023 general elections, Dr Ifeanyi Chukwuma Odii, have asked the election petitions Tribunal sitting in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State Capital, to mandate the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to the Governor-elect, Right Honourable Francis Ogbonna Nwifuru, on the ground of non-qualification.
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.
These were some of the prayers in Petition Number: EPT/EB/02/2023 dated 6th April, 2023 and filed on 7th April, 2023, by Dr Odii and the PDP against the INEC, Francis Ogbonna Nwifuru and the All Progressives Congress, a copy of which was obtained by our Reporter.
The Petitioners, Mr Odii and the PDP, in the petition, argued that the Governor-elect, Mr Nwifuru, was not qualified to contest the election on the platform of the APC as he was still a bonafide member of the People’s Democratic Party and had not officially defected to any other political party including the APC.
The 2nd Petitioner, the PDP, further averred that Mr Nwifuru, being a serving lawmaker elected on the platform of the party 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.
Recall that the PDP candidate, Mr Odii placed second in the Governorship election with 80191 votes while Mr Nwifuru scored 199131 votes to emerge the winner.
The Petitioners’ legal team of 12 Lawyers including six Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SANs) is led by Chief Chris Uche, SAN.