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Court sacks Imo APC Rep-elect, orders INEC to issue Certificate of Return to PDP candidate

A Federal High Court, siting in Owerri, Imo State, on Monday, sacked the member-elect for Nkwerre/Nwangele/Njaba/Isu federal constituency, Ugonna Ozurigbo.

Ozurigbo had, last Wednesday, resigned his position as the deputy Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly.

Justice P.A. Rigime, who delivered the judgment, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue Certificate of Return to Kingsley Echendu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Neither PDP nor its candidate was a party to the suit.

The court said that Harrison Nwadike, who is the Plaintiff, was the “rightful winner” of the All Progressives Congress (APC) primary election in the federal constituency.

Nwadike had taken his party, the APC and INEC to court over the submission of Ozurigbo’s name as the candidate of the party.

Nwadike, who prayed the court to declare him as the rightful candidate of the APC, contended that automatic tickets were unknown to the Constitution.

The court, in its judgment, agreed with the Petitioner that automatic tickets were unknown to law.

The judge, who said that the candidacy of Ozurigbo was ‘illegitimate’, ordered INEC to issue the PDP candidate, Echendu, who came second in the general election with a Certificate of Return as the rightful winner of the election.

The Petitioner, who spoke to reporters after the judgment was delivered, said that while he agreed with the court that he was the rightful winner of the APC primary election in the constituency, it was, however, wrong for the court to have declared the PDP candidate the lawful winner of the general election.

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He said that he would go to court to challenge the aspect of the judgment which ordered INEC to issue a Certificate of Return to the PDP candidate.

But counsel to the PDP candidate, who is the beneficiary of the court judgment, Stanley Imo, said that the court was right to have declared his client the rightful winner of the election.

He said, “The law is very clear on this. Harrison Nwadike did not participate in all the stages of the election but my client did. Now that the court held that Ugonna Ozurigbo was not the rightful candidate of the APC (and) said that the second runner-up, who is my client, that participated in all the stages of the elections should be issued with the Certificate of Return”.

Publicity Secretary of the PDP in the state, Damian Opara, urged INEC to waste no time in issuing its candidate the Certificate of Return as ordered by the court.

Opara said that the judgment “has shown that impunity and illegality are bad. PDP did perfect primary elections and we are reaping the dividends.”

Ozurigbo could not be immediately reached via his mobile telephone line after the court judgement.