The Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos has affirmed the election of Member representing Ideato North/Ideato South Federal Constituency of Imo State, Hon. Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere Ikeagwuonu, as the validly elected Member of the House of Representatives.
This judicial triumph has brought to an end the political battle of almost two years which has been as intriguing as it has been bloody, claiming lives of his family members and supporters who lost their lives following a deadly attack on his residence on 7th January, 2023.
Litigation concerning election into the National Assembly terminates at the Court of Appeal.
In a unanimous judgment delivered on Wednesday, the panel headed by Justice Abubakar Babandi Gumel overruled the judgments of the Tribunal which had disqualified Ikenga and nullified his election on a pre-election matter of the primaries of the PDP despite plethora of authorities by the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal to the effect that Election Tribunals do not have jurisdiction over pre-election matters.
As news of the judgment reached Ideato, there was instant jubilation, with markets and streets instantly turning into carnivals for the celebration of the victory. The people of Ideato had overwhelmingly voted for Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere despite the vehement opposition of Governor Hope Uzodimma whose candidate won only one Polling Unit out of the 346 Polling Units in the Federal Constituency. Reports of jubilation over the judgment also hit other Local Government Areas in the state and indeed across the entire South East.
Speaking after the judgment, counsel to Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, Emeka Ozoani SAN, described the judgment as victory for democracy and an end to political rascality. He said the travesty of the Tribunal judgment led to the filing of nine appeals before the Appeal Court, the highest number of appeals ever against a singular judgment in our election petition jurisprudence.
While commending the President of the Court of Appeal and the three members of the Panel, Barr Tochukwu Ohazuruike said “The President of the Court of Appeal and the three Panel members deserve all the commendation for resisting the attempts of Hope Uzodimma to undermine them like he did to Justice Akpovi who has lost all his respect for such strange judgment he delivered after the Tribunal hearing. It is only those who that Hope Uzodimma stops at nothing when he wants to desecrate the judiciary that will understand why this commendation is necessary and apt.
In his own reaction, an obviously excited Hon. Ugochinyere said God always vindicates the innocent.
He said this is not the opportunity cost for those that were killed but it will at least show they did not die in vain.
He further stated, “Uzodimma is a sore loser. His candidate won only one polling unit out of 346 Polling units. Finished a distant third in the election yet went to the Tribunal to ask that he be declared the winner of the election and the Governor was spending public funds on such shameful enterprise to undermine the judiciary. But we thank God for this day.
“We can now start the burial arrangements for my uncle who was murdered in cold blood on 7th January so he can now rest in peace having been here till this final victory.” He also cautioned Governor Hope Uzodimma to desist from sanctioning with continued existence of his non state armed group the killing and maiming of Imo indigenes and residents as power is transient and he would answer for his crimes either here on earth or before God in heaven.”