Enugu: Tribunal upholds Utazi’s election

The National Assembly/State Houses of Assembly Elections Petition Tribunal sitting in Enugu has upheld the election of Senator Chukwuka Utazi representing Enugu North Senatorial Zone.

All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate in the election Barr Eugene Odo had challenged his victory before the tribunal.

But in a unanimous judgment Tuesday, the tribunal struck out the petition for lacking in merit.

The parties had on July 29 adopted their final written address, with the APC candidate telling the Tribunal that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) allegedly announced the result of the election even before the final collation.

The position was canvassed by the counsel to the petitioners, Mr. H.A Bello.

Bello had told the 3-man Tribunal that the election ought be to quashed over the INEC’s alleged failure to comply with the provisions of its own guidelines as well as the Electoral Act.

He had claimed that the INEC put the cart before the horse.

“INEC declared return before collation. Return was declared on 23rd of February, 2019, whereas substantial collation was done on the 24th of February, 2019.

“So, we have shown substantial non-compliance with the provisions of the Regulation 37 of the INEC guidelines.

“Compliance to these guidelines are mandatory, compulsory and non-compliance renders the step taken in wanton disobedience a nullity.

“For these reasons, we urge Your Lordships to grant all the reliefs sought by the petitioners.”

But his position was countered by the counsel to the 1st Respondent, Barr. A.J. Offiah, (SAN), who argued that “proceedings here witnessed a total abandonment of the case as pleaded by the petitioners, by their failure to produce evidence on the facts pleaded; that’s the scenario.

“That is complete failure; that is total collapse of the case. The petition died on the period evidence.

“What we are doing here now is the wake-keep, in preparation for the final burial; we are asking the Court to dismiss the petition.”

Delivering judgement, the three-man Tribunal led by Justice H.H Kerang said the petitioners could not prove allegations of non-compliance to the electoral laws.

The Tribunal held that “the petition lacked merit and the election of the first respondent is hereby upheld.”

It went ahead to award the cost of N250,000 in favour of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents against the petitioners.

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