Outrage and shock have greeted the judgement of the Imo State National/State Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal, which removed Hon. Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere as the member representing Ideato North/South federal constituency of Imo State in the House of Representatives and declared a supplementary election in 55 polling units of the constituency with the exception of Ugochinyere.
In the judgment which amounted to the Tribunal upturning and setting aside a subsisting judgment of the Supreme Court, the Tribunal upheld the petition of Chika Abazu of the All Progressives Country (APC) on the ground that the primary election of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which produced Ugochinyere as candidate, was invalid.
In its judgment in SC/CV/501/2023 which was cited for the Tribunal, the Supreme Court held that “A political party that files a suit to challenge the nomination of the candidate of another party will be a nosy busybody, a meddlesome interloper, peeping into the affairs of his neighbour without any backing in law. No court of law can entertain such a Suit.
“No political party can challenge the nomination of the candidate of another political party. No matter how pained or disgruntled a political party is with the way and manner another political party is conducting or has conducted its affairs concerning the nomination of its candidates for any position,it must keep mum and remain an onlooker, for it lacks the locus standi to challenge such nomination court. (P. 131, paras. D-E).”
Ugochinyere also cited other instances to back his claim.
On whether a political party can challenge the actions of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in relation to another political party, the Supreme Court said: “A political party lacks the locus standi to challenge the actions of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in relation to another political party. (P. 131, paras. E-F).”
On when a political party can file a pre-election matter, he pointed out that “Section 285(14)(c) of the 1999 Constitution only allows a political party to challenge the decisions and activities of INEC disqualifying its own candidate from participating in an election,or to complain that the provisions of the Electoral Act or any other law have not been complied within respect of the nomination of the party’s own candidates, time table for an election, registration of voters and other activities of INEC in respect of preparation for an election. A political party is only vested with locus to file a pre-election matter when the aforesaid situations affect it or its own candidates. When the actions of INEC relate to the activities of a political party, no court has the jurisdiction to entertain a suit brought by another political party in that regard. (P. 131, paras. F-H).”
On whether a court can entertain an action by a political party challenging the nomination of a candidate of another political party, “A political party that files a suit to challenge the nomination of the candidate of another party will be a nosy busy body, a meddlesome interloper,peeping into the affairs of his neighbour without any backing in law. No court of law can entertain such a suit. In the instant case, the appellant failed to disclose any nexus between the actions of the respondents and its suit and failed to show which harm it suffered or that it stood to potentially suffer from the actions complained of. Furthermore, no dispute was shown to exist between the appellant and respondents. Therefore, the appellant lacked locus standi to institute and maintain its action at the trial court.”
When approached by journalists after the judgment, counsel to Ugochinyere, Emeka Ozoani SAN, shook his and said, “I am in shock, this is unbelievable, I do not have any comment.”
However, when news of the judgment hit Ideato, youths erupted in instant protests, making bonfires and blocking roads with tree logs and leaves insisting that Ugochinyere was their choice and that must be respected by the Courts.
One of the protesters Collins Obioha said, “the Court of Appeal just last week in the Presidential election judgment in the Peter Obi case declared that the issue of nomination of candidate is a pre-election matter and no election petition court has jurisdiction over such issues. Did the Tribunal not hear that judgement? How come this Tribunal has not only refused to follow the judgment, it sat on appeal over it and overruled it.”
Some of the youths who were interviewed blamed the Governor of Imo State, Sen. Hope Uzodimma, for allegedly having a hand in the unfortunate outcome of the case but expressed confidence that Ugochinyere will triumph ultimately.
It will be recalled that INEC declared Ugochinyere the winner of the February 25 election with over 13, 000 votes while Paschal Obi of Labour Party and Chika Abazu of the APC finished second and third respectively with about 5,000 votes and 2,000 votes. LEADERSHIP