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OKOROCHA FLOORS OHAKIM AGAIN

By NBF News
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There was jubilation in Owerri, Imo State capital, yesterday as the election petition tribunal upheld the election of Governor Rochas Okorocha.

Supporters of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), his party, took to the streets immediately after news of the judgment upholding election of the governor filtered into town.

Okorocha was elected governor of the state on May 6, 2011, supplementary election after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared the April 26 governorship polls inconclusive.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had filed a petition challenging Okorocha's emergence in the May 6, 2011, election and urged the tribunal to uphold the aborted April 26 governorship polls and declare its candidate, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, winner as he scored majority of the lawful votes cast. It also urged the tribunal to declare the May 6 supplementary election illegal, unconstitutional, null and void.

The three-man panel headed by Justice E.N. Kpojime upheld the results of April 26 polls and declared that the May 6 supplementary election that produced Okorocha as governor of the state was a continuation of the April 26 inconclusive polls.

In the three-hour painstaking judgment, Justice Kpojime said since the April 26 poll was inconclusive and no winner emerged, the May 6 supplementary election organized by INEC was legitimate and constitutional.

She said that INEC had constitutional power to cancel poll and pick a new date for such election if it has cogent reason to call off an election. The tribunal said there was glaring evidence of pockets of violence in four local government areas where the polls were cancelled.

Justice Kpojime, who relied on submissions of both parties involved, submitted that the April 26 poll results remained legal and unchallenged.

According to her, the total number of eligible voters disfranchised in the four affected councils, Oguta, Ohaji/ Egbema, Ngo Okpala and Mbaitoli as well as Orji in Owerri North LGA during April 26 election would have been much to ignore and such may have led to serious breach of peace in the state.

'The May 6, 2011 supplementary election was a continuation of the April 26, 2011 election and this tribunal is convinced of the evidence of violence in the four local government councils as given by the petitioner's witness', she said.

She added that the petitioner failed to prove that election took place in the four affected areas and a ward in Owerri North and equally observed that the petitioner failed to prove that its candidate, Chief Ohakim scored the majority of lawful votes cast on April 26.

According to her, she stated that the supplementary election was in compliance with 1999 constitution as amended and 2010 Electoral Act as amended.

She pointed out that the petitioner only succeeded in dumping a worthless evidence before the tribunal and therefore, declared that the petition lacked merit and dismissed it accordingly.

Chief Awa Kalu (SAN), one of the lead counsel of the PDP, said that the next line of action would be determined by the petitioner.

But, the legal adviser to the PDP, Chief C.O.C Akaolisa, told reporters that the party would appeal against the judgment.