By Amos Aar
THE National and State House of Assembly Elections Petition Tribunal sitting in Makurdi, Benue State, has struck out petitions against senator representing Benue North-West, Titus Zam, of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and five members of the House of Representatives from Benue State, all elected on the APC platform.
Two judgements on National Assembly petitions were passed on Friday, September 8, 2023 for Jechira and Buruku federal constituencies’ elections while three judgments were delivered on Saturday, September 9, 2023 for Gwer/Gwer West, Makurdi/Guma and Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo federal constituencies.
On Friday, the tribunal upheld the election of Mr Sesoo Ikpagher, representing Vandeikya/Konshisha and that of Sekav Iortom for Buruku federal constituencies.
The tribunal’s decision followed the dismissal of a petition filed by the candidate of the Action Democratic Congress (ADC), Mr Imborvungu Tsar, challenging the declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which returned Ikpagher as the winner of the election held on February 25, 2023.
The first petitioner alleged that he was excluded by INEC in the election, praying that the election of Ikpagher should be nullified by the tribunal.
The tribunal however held that the exclusion of a candidate in an election is a pre-election matter and not post-election issue and as such, the case was dismissed for lacking in merit.
Reacting to the ruling, lead counsel to the defendant, Barr Iortyom Wombu, admitted the fault, explaining that the petitioner’s party (ADC) had wrongly submitted his name in Buruku federal constituency instead of Vandeikya/Konshisha and efforts made by his counsel to rectify the issue before the election were unsuccessful.
He said: “the petitioner approached the Federal High Court to effect the change by order of court but before the order, he withdrew the case before the post-election tribunal which is abuse of procedure”.
Similarly, the tribunal affirmed the election of Mr Sekav Iortom of the APC for Buruku federal constituency when it dismissed two petitions challenging his declaration as the member of House of Representatives for Buruku federal constituency.
In the petition, Ngunan Addingi of Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Jimin Kpam Sokpo of the Labour Party (LP), all urged the tribunal to nullify Iortyom’s election on the ground that he was not qualified to contest among others.
After all arguments, the Justice Ory Zik-Ikeoeha-led tribunal dismissed their Petitions as lacking in merit.
One petition challenging Iortyom’s election filed by the candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) was still pending at the tribunal to be decided at a later date.
Reacting, Hon. Adingi who expressed dissatisfaction with the judgement said they would look at the judgement to decide the next line of action.
Ruling on the other three petitions against Dickson Tarkighir of Makurdi/Guma federal constituency, Arc. Asema Achado representing Gwer/Gwer West federal constituency, and Hon. Philip Agbese representing Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo federal constituency as brought before the tribunal by their opponents, the panel led by the Honourable Justice Amina Aliyu, on Saturday dismissed the petitions as incompetent and lacking in merit.
The petitioners were Mark Gbillah of the Labour Party, challenging the victory of Senator Titus Zam, PDP’s Bem Mzondu against Dickson Tarkighir of the APC, Raphael Otobo of Labour Party challenging the election of Philip Agbese of APC and Emmanuel Ukaa of Labour Party against Arc. Asema Achado of APC.
In some of those petitions, the petitioners had asked the tribunal to nullify the election of their respondents on the grounds of non-compliance with the electoral act while others raised allegations of irregularities and corruption. Specifically, Gbillah cited non-compliance with the Electoral Act while Emmanuel Ukaa alleged certificate forgery by Achado.
But the tribunal ruled that the petitioners failed to prove their cases.