By Vivian Okejeme
The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja has reserved judgment in three separate appeals challenging the victory of Emeka Ihedioha in the March 9 governorship election in Imo State.
The five-man panel lead by Justice Oyebisi Omoleye, informed that judgment in the three appeals would be delivered on a date to be communicated to parties, after parties in the various appeals adopted their written addresses as brief of argument in the appeals.
The appeals filed against the judgment of the Imo State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, which upheld the election of Ihedioha, include that of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and his governorship candidate, Senator Ifeanyi Ararume; Action Alliance (AA) and his governorship candidate, Uche Nwosu and that of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and its governorship candidate, Senator Hope Uzodinma.
The different appellants are asking the appellate court to void the election of Ihedioha on grounds that he did not obtain the constitutional one quarter of the votes in at least two-thirds of the 27 local government areas of the state, in line with Section 179 of the Constitution.
In their various submissions by their counsel, the appellants are asking the court to set aside the decision of the tribunal and declare them winner of the March 9 governorship election or in the alternative order the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a fresh election into the office of Governor of Imo State.
On September 21, a three man panel of the tribunal had in a unanimous decisions, held that Ihedioha was lawfully declared winner of the governorship election by INEC.
The lead judge, Justice Malami Dongondaji, had in the judgment dismissed Ararume, Nwosu and Uzodinma’s petitions for lacking in merit on the grounds that they failed to prove allegations made in their petitions.
Apart from their claims that Ihedioha did not obtain the constitutional one quarter of the votes in at least two-thirds of the 27 local government areas of the state, in line with the provisions of the law, the petitioners had also alleged substantial non compliance with the Electoral Act and Guidelines, including other irregularities.
But the tribunal in its judgment held that the case of the petitioners was unmeritorious because they failed to call relevant witnesses and that evidence of witnesses called were based on hearsay.
The tribunal in addition rejected documents tendered by the petitioners in support of their claims on the grounds that those who led evidence in the documents were not the makers of the documents.
In his appeal, Ararume urged the appellate court to upturn the decision of the tribunal on the grounds that the lower court erred in law when it arrived at the decision that his case and that of his party lacked merit and accordingly dismissed it.
The appeal which was predicated on 22 grounds was argued by his lead lawyer, Awa Kalu, SAN, while that of Nwosu and AA, was argued by Niyi Akintola SAN and that of Uzodinma and APC, argued by Damian Dodo SAN.
They all urged the panel to allow the appeal and grant all the reliefs sought by the appellants.
However, lead counsel to Emeka Ihedioha and Peoples Democratic Party, Onyechi Ikpeazu SAN and K.C.O. Njemanze SAN respectively urged the court to dismiss the appeals for being incompetent and lacking in merit.
The respondents submitted that the appeal of the AA and Nwosu in particular constitute a waste of the precious time of the court since the Supreme Court in a judgment delivered on October 22, had already struck out the name of Uche Nwosu as candidate of the AA in the March 9 governorship election in Imo State.
The respondents also claimed that the appeal of Nwosu lacked merit going by a recent judgment of the Court of Appeal which nullified the candidacy of Nwosu in the governorship election.
Justice Omoyele after taken submissions of counsel in the matter announced that judgment will be delivered in a date that will be communicated to parties.