By Chimezie Anaso
The Anambra Governorship Election Tribunal has dismissed two of the three petitions against the victory of Gov. Willie Obiano in the Nov. 18, 2017 election in the state.
The Tribunal affirmed Obiano’s victory in two separate unanimous judgments delivered by its chairman, Justice H.A. Olusiyi, a copy of which was made availbale to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Saturday.
Justice A.O. Ayoola and Justice Birnin Kudu were member 1 and Member II respectively of the tribunal.
NAN reports that the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were first and second respondents respectively in the matters.
Dr Chukwudi Obianaso and Ms Praise Okechukwu, candidates of African Democratic Congress (ADC) and Mega Progressive People Party (MPPP) in the same election had prayed the tribunal to invalidate the victory.
Obianaso in his petition said the election should be nullified because it was marred with corrupt practices perpetrated by Obiano and his agents in connivance with INEC.
“INEC should conduct a fresh election and Obiano be disqualified to contest in the fresh election,’’ he said.
In her petition, the MPPP candidate said Obiano was not duly elected or returned by the majority of lawful votes cast and that the exercise did not comply substantially with the Electoral Act.
“Obiano did not score the majority of valid votes cast in at least two-third of the 21 council areas in Anambra in the election; thus his return by the third respondent is unconstitutional, irregular, null and void and of no effect whatsoever,’’ she said.
The Certified True Copy (CTC) of the judgments made available to NAN on Friday by the Tribunal said Okechukwu could not substantiate her claims of electoral malpractice with credible evidence.
It said those allegedly involved in vote-buying and polling units where the alleged corrupt practices took place were not mentioned, and that only one witness was not enough to testify on the claims.
“The petitioners have woefully failed to prove by any credible evidence that the first respondent was not duly elected or returned as governor of Anambra by the majority of lawful votes cast.
“The petitioners have abysmally failed to prove with any modicum of satisfaction that the election in question was invalid by reason of corrupt practices and non-compliance with provisions of Electoral Act 2010 as amended.
“On the whole, the petition failed as it patently lacks substance and merit, it is accordingly dismissed in its entirety, consequently we affirm as valid the election and return of the first respondent as governor of Anambra,’’ it ruled.
On his part, Obianaso hinged his case on the claim that Obiano bought some vehicles to unmanned persons, including ward, local government chairmen of the party and council care-taker chairmen.
He also alleged that funds were also disbursed to them all geared toward the election and spent in excess of N200 million allowed by the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended.
But the Tribunal said though the allegations on expenses were made before the election which it had no jurisdiction, the petitioner did not give names of alleged beneficiaries.
It said the alleged beneficiaries were not also joined as parties in the petition and that the petitioner did not tender any pro-forma invoice in respect of the vehicles given out by Obiano.
The Tribunal said the petitioner listed about 15 documents which he intended to rely upon but could not successfully tender two in evidence, including P1 and P2.
These, according to the tribunal, were CTC of newspaper publications that have no “probative value’’.
“He did not call a single witness to corroborate or substantiate his allegations and did not tell the Tribunal where the unlawful campaign took place nor deem it fit to call any election monitor to testify for him.
“Allegations of spending money beyond permissible limit, massive sharing of money to voters and unlawful spending on Election Day was ‘grossly unsubstantiated and pitiably tenuous’.
“With all issues considered, and in the light of all foregoing, we come to the irresistible and compelling conclusion that the petitioner has failed to prove by credible and satisfactory evidence that the election of the first respondent as governor of Anambra was marred by corrupt practices.
“The sole issue for determination is resolved in the negative against the petitioner; the petition is dismissed in its entirety as it is bereft of any scintilla of merit.
“We hereby, affirm that the first respondent was duly elected on Nov. 18, 2017,’’ the Tribunal ruled.
The Tribunal had earlier struck out the petition of African Peoples Party (APP) against the governor following the preliminary objection raised by the respondents for lack of merit.
Obiano, candidate of APGA, won the election with a total of 234, 071 from the total of 488,771 votes cast.