Appeal Court declares Alex Otti winner

Alex Otti

The Court of Appeal, sitting in Owerri, has removed Okezie Ikpeazu of the Peoples Democratic Party as governor of Abia State. The court also declared Alex Otti of the All Progressives Grand Alliance the winner of the April 11 and April 25 supplementary elections in the state.
Delivering judgment in an appeal filed by Mr. Otti, the five-member panel, headed by Justice Oyebisi Omoleye, said the APGA candidate scored 164, 444 valid votes to defeat Mr. Ikpeazu who scored 114, 444 votes.
The court declared that Mr. Otti was the winner of the April 11 and April 25 supplementary elections in Abia.
Justice Omoleye said the cancellation of the elections held in three LGAs of Obingwa, Osisioma Ngwa and Isiala Ngwa by the returning officers after the results were uploaded to INEC was wrong.
“In the Electoral Act, the Returning Officer has the right to only declare results of elections and not to cancel elections.
“This panel discovered that the earlier results uploaded to INEC headquarters correspond with the correct valid registered voters in the three LGAs, while that awarded to the respondent shows over voting and therefore null and void.’’
Justice Omoleye had while reviewing preliminary objections and issues raised by both parties, struck out the preliminary objections by Mr. Ikpeazu’s counsel to the effect that the appeal lacked merit.
The court also turned down the objection raised by the PDP that the members of the panel were wrongfully constituted and affirmed the arguments of Mr. Otti’s counsel.
The appellate court maintained that the lower tribunal erred by not handling all the issues raised before it on their merit.
The court insisted that there was no need to call for re-run because the results of the April 11 and 25 polls clearly present Mr. Otti as the genuine winner of the exercise.
The court therefore directed INEC to issue Certificate of Return to Mr. Otti and swear him in as winner of the Abia Governorship election.
In his reaction to the judgment, Oracle Nwali, a lawyer in Mr. Otti’s legal team, described the victory as “an end of the year gift to APGA”, saying Mr. Otti would not disappoint Abia people.
On his part, Charles Esonu, the PDP secretary in Abia, said the party and its candidate would study the judgment and decide on the next line of action.
Mr. Otti had proceeded to the Court of Appeal after the Abia tribunal gave its judgment on November 3, saying the PDP validly won the election.
In that 85-minute judgment, delivered by its Chairman, Usman Bwala, the tribunal said the petitioners – Mr. Otti and APGA – failed to prove their claim to have won the election ‘’beyond doubt”.