Civic International in collaboration with Groups for Massive Participation in Election has described the judgment of the Court of Appeal, sitting in Owerri, which sacked Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu and ordered the swearing in of the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Dr. Alex Otti, as the duly elected Governor of Abia State, as a violation of the people’s fundamental right to vote.
Coordinator of Civic International, Abdulrazak Gidado Ajala, stated this while addressing a press conference in Abuja on Tuesday.
The groups pointed out that the Appeal Court cited issues of irregularities and over voting as a ground for the cancellation of results from three local governments and there are 458 polling units in the areas: Osisionma Ngwa, 110 units, Isiala Ngwa North, 125 units and Obingwa, 223 units.
‘‘Besides, was it possible that the Appeal Court discovered over-voting in all the 458 polling units and cancelled them and the appellant did not present any other result at the court except the one declared and submitted by INEC?
‘‘If there is over-voting in unit A and none in unit B, will the inalienable right to vote be denied citizens in unit B because of over-voting in unit A?’’ the groups stated.
The group pointed out that the right to vote is fundamental and crucial to the extent that some countries go as far as enforcing compulsory voting on their citizens and wondered why a court in Nigeria would disenfranchise as much as three local governments, with a voting population of 250,235 registered voters.
It would be recalled that the court nullified the election of Ikpeazu of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, on the basis that the APGA candidate scored 164,444 valid votes to defeat Ikpeazu who scored 114,444 votes.
According to the groups, the five-member panel headed by Justice Oyebisi Omoleye said the cancellation of the election held in Obingwa, Osisioma Ngwa and Isiala Ngwa by the returning officers after the results were uploaded to INEC was wrong.
However, the group said the decision of the appellate court was wrong and conflicting with similar judgements of other Court of Appeal divisions.
The coordinator commended the Supreme Court for correcting a similar anomaly in the judgment of the Court of Appeal delivered recently in the Zamfara State gubernatorial election where the issue of over-voting was thrown aside, as it was absurd for over-voting to occur in all the polling units in a local government.