The Court of Appeal upholds the election of Senator Rochas Okorocha

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The Court of Appeal, Owerri Judicial Division, on the 7th of November 2019, affirmed the decisions of the National and State Houses of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal which dismissed the Petitions filed by Hon. Jones Onyereri of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Senator Osita Izunaso of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) respectively against the declaration and return of Senator Rochas Anayo Okorocha of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the election to the office of Senator representing Imo West Senatorial District conducted on the 23rd February 2019.

It will be recalled that two appeals were lodged against the decisions of the Election Petition Tribunal in the petitions filed by the senatorial candidates of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Osita Bonaventure Izunaso and Honourable Jones Onyereri. These petitions were dismissed upon a determination by the trial Tribunal that the election was not marred by over-voting, disenfranchisement and other corrupt practices, irregularities and non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act and that Senator Osita Bonaventure Izunaso and Honourable Jones Onyereri did not prove the allegation that the returning officer, Professor Innocent Ibeawuchi made the declaration of result of the election under duress.

Prince Orji Nwafor-Orizu who represented Senator Izunaso and Emeka Etiaba, SAN who represented Hon. Onyeyeri had, in their appeals urged the Court of Appeal to set aside the decision of the Election Petition Tribunal on the basis that the lower Tribunal was wrong to have held that they did not prove the allegations of electoral malpractices and duress at the hearing of the Petition.

The counsel to Senator Okorocha, Okey Amaechi, SAN and counsel to APC, Kehinde Ogunwumiju, SAN in the two appeals had in urging the court to uphold the decision of the tribunal, argued that the Appellants failed to prove their allegations of electoral malpractices and duress during the conduct of the election.

They submitted that the Appellants failed to call one single witness from the polling units where they alleged malpractices took place. They further submitted that the tribunal was right to have held that Professor Ibeawuchi was a dramatist who only came to the tribunal to give contradictory and unreliable hearsay evidence.

In dismissing the two appeals, the Court of Appeal held that the lower tribunal was right to have found that the Appellants did not adduce cogent evidence in support of the Petitions. The Court of Appeal affirmed the finding of the trial Tribunal that the returning officer was never subjected to duress in view of the content of the Police Report . The Court of Appeal also found that the Returning Officer was not a reliable witness in view of his partisan and contradictory testimony.

The decision of the Court of Appeal has therefore put paid to the ruckus generated by the allegation of Professor Ibeawuchi that the declaration of Senator Okorocha was made under duress.

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