The Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Awka, on Friday, struck out Dr. Richard Egenti’s application seeking to be joined as respondent in the petition challenging the election of Mr Valentine Ayika of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Egenti, also of the PDP, sought to be joined in the petition filed by Dozie Nwankwo of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) on the grounds that he won the party’s primary for the Feb. 23 National Assembly election for Anaocha/Dunukofia/ Njikoka Federal Constituency.
Both Ayika, who was declared the winner and Nwankwo, who is challenging Ayika’s victory, had asked the tribunal to strike out Egenti’s application for lack of merit.
In his ruling, the Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Esther Haruna, dismissed the application on the grounds that Egenti was not a party in the election, NAN reports.
Haruna cited Section 137 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) to support the decision of the tribunal.
The tribunal held that it was a pre-election matter that was internal to the party and declined jurisdiction over it.
Speaking to journalists, Fidelis Anyanegbu, Counsel for Ayika, lauded the tribunal for the ruling, which he described as much expected and well informed.
Anyanegbu said that Ayika’s candidacy and sponsorship by the PDP in the election was not in doubt.
He said that PDP confirmed Ayika as it’s candidate, while the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) also acknowledged it by issuing him the Certificate of Return.
He said that the controversy over the rightful candidate of PDP in the election had been settled by the Supreme Court.
He said: “The tribunal refused to grant his application to be joined in the suit because it says Egenti is not one of the parties in the petition either as a petitioner or as a respondent as stipulated by section 137 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
“The parties that can be joined in the suit are the persons that contested election, won the election and INEC and this application was filed outside time, after the 21 days stipulated by the guidelines.
“The ruling did not say PDP has no candidate, it only said that Egenti was not the name forwarded to INEC but that of Ayika and that was why INEC acknowledged it by issuing him certificate of return.
“Initially, his name was not published because there was a case between Ayika and Egenti at the Supreme Court, which later nullified the decisions of Court of Appeal and Federal High Court Abuja.
“That decision meant that there was no other challenger, which informed the forwarding of Ayika’s name by the PDP to INEC.
“So the only candidate PDP had for that election was Ayika.”
But reacting, Egenti rejected the ruling, saying that he would appeal it and expressed optimism to get a favourable ruling at the Appeal Court.
Haruna later adjourned the pre-hearing for Nwankwo’s petition against INEC, PDP and Ayika to May 22.