The National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Umuahia, Wednesday, reserved judgment in a petition by the immediate-past Speaker of the Abia State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Chinedum Orji, seeking to annul the victory of the member representing Ikwuano/Umuahia North/ Umuahia South federal constituency, Hon. Obi Aguocha.

Hon. Aguocha was the Labour Party candidate in the February 25 national assembly poll, while the former Speaker contested on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

The LP candidate was declared winner of the contest by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, but dissatisfied with the declaration, the former Speaker and his party headed for the tribunal to seek Aguocha’s removal.

Adopting his final written addresses Wednesday, through his Lead Counsel, Obinna Nkume, the PDP candidate urged the tribunal to remove the LP candidate on the grounds that the LP allegedly failed to submit the party’s membership register to the Independent INEC, 30 days before the poll as required by the Electoral Act.

He also urged the panel to disqualify Aguocha from even participating in the contest, alleging that the lawmaker was a member of two political parties – PDP, and LP during both the party primaries and the main election.

The former Speaker’s Lead Counsel further claimed that his client and not the LP candidate, won the highest number of lawful votes cast.

According to him, “the results my client got through his party agents were the same with the results presented by the INEC from the agency’s IREV”.

He claimed that the 1s Respondent swapped results in 53 disputed polling units where he allegedly inflated his figures and deflated the figures entered for the PDP candidate.

Citing the suit between Gov. Hope Uzodinma, and ex-Gov. Emeka Ihedioha of Imo State, decided by the Supreme Court in 2020, Orji’s Lead Counsel asserted that the court had the powers to recompute the votes in the disputed polling units and declare the highest scorer based on evidence before it.

Claiming that Rt. Hon. Orji secured the highest number of lawful votes cast, the 1st Petitioner’s Lead Counsel prayed the panel to annul Aguocha’s victory and declare the PDP candidate the rightful winner of the contest.

But Hon. Aguocha through his own Lead Counsel, Anaga Kalu Anaga, urged the panel to throw away the petition which he simply dismissed as “incompetent”.

According to him, the Petitioner could not produce evidence to prove that his claims were valid as the testimony of his witnesses was not “front-loaded” before the witnesses gave their oral testimony.

Aguocha’s lawyer insisted that a higher Court had already ruled that the evidence of a subpoenad witness ought to have been “front-loaded”.

He further argued that the claims of manipulation of election results could not be substantiated by the testimony of only one party agent that witnessed the election in a particular unit.

”You cannot use only one agent’s testimony at a particular unit to generalise in all the polling units. The Petitioner ought to have brought witnesses in the other affected polling units”, he contended.

After listening to all the adumbration by the Counsels to both parties, the Chairman of the three-man panel, Justice Abubakar Kutigi, said that a date yet-to-be-fixed, would be communicated to them for judgment.

With a margin of over 13,000 votes, INEC declared Aguocha who polled a total of 48,199 votes winner of the contest.

His closest rival, Orji, polled 35, 296 votes according to the results declared by INEC.

Vanguard

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