The Imo State National and State House of Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal has ruled to oust the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) member, Ikenga Ugochinyere, from his seat in the House of Representatives. The tribunal’s unanimous decision, delivered by a three-member panel headed by Justice Anthony Olotu Akpovi, determined that Ugochinyere’s nomination by the PDP for the Ideato North/South Federal Constituency election held on February 25 was invalid.
The tribunal’s ruling mandates the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to organize a supplementary election within 90 days in the constituency, specifically in the 55 polling units where elections did not take place on February 25. Importantly, it excludes the PDP and its candidate from participating in the supplementary election.
This decisive judgement followed a petition filed by Mr. Abazu Chika Benson, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who came third in the initial election. Benson contested that Ugochinyere was unqualified to participate in the House of Representatives contest due to the improper location of the PDP’s primary election, which was held outside the constituency, contrary to Electoral Act provisions.
The tribunal concurred with Benson’s argument, citing section 84 (5) (c) of the Electoral Act 2022, which rendered the PDP’s primary election invalid, thus making Ugochinyere’s candidacy invalid as well. Additionally, the tribunal held that the primary election must adhere to section 29 (1) of the Electoral Act to be considered valid.
Due to the margin of lead and the inability to conduct elections in 55 polling units because of security concerns, the tribunal declared the Labour Party candidate, Obi Paschal Chigozie, as the winner of the seat. INEC was instructed to organize a supplementary poll in the remaining polling units, with all parties participating except the PDP.