Otti’s Name on APC’s List, Labour Party didn’t submit Membership Register to INEC as Demanded By Law, Abia PDP to Tribunal Court | #NwokeukwuMascot
|Dr Alex Chioma Otti; Abia Gov-Elect.|
As at the time Abia State Governorship election held on 18th March 2023, Dr. Alex Chioma Otti was not qualified to contest the election.
This is one of the grounds upon which the Election Petition
EPT/AB/GOV/01/2023 was filed by the Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP) and its gubernatorial candidate before the Abia State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal.
The Petition is filed against INEC, Dr. Alex Chioma Otti and Labour Party (LP) as Respondents.
The petition is anchored on the grounds that
(a) that Dr Alex Otti was, at the time of the election, not qualified to contest the election;
(b) Dr Alex Otti was not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the election; and
(c) the election and return of Alex Otti was invalid and marred by corrupt practices or non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022.
The gravamen of the petition is that a candidate for the office of Governor of a State must be duly sponsored by a political party in compliance with the provisions of Section 177(c) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended); and the political party must submit a register bearing the name of such candidate as a member of its party to INEC at least 30 days before the conduction of its party primaries, in compliance with Section 77(3) of the Electoral Act 2022.
The case of the PDP is that Labour Party did not submit its party membership register to INEC for either Isialangwa South or Arochukwu LGAs or Abia State at all, 30 days before the holding of its primaries on 8th June 2022 and or at all, therefore, Alex Otti stands disqualified to contest the election on the platform of the Labour Party. Conversely, Dr Alex Otti's name was on the Register submitted by APC at the same period.
On the contrary, Alex Otti was a Governorship aspirant under the All Progressive Congress (APC) up to the 26th of May 2022 when the APC held its Governorship primaries in Abia State.
PDP's argument is that unless it is shown that the name of Alex Otti was on the membership register submitted by LP to INEC 30 days before 8th of June 2022, Alex Otti cannot validly and legally be said to have been a member of, or sponsored by LP for the Governorship election.
The concomitant effect being that both Alex Otti and LP are constitutionally disqualified from participating in the Abia State Governorship election of 18th Marc 2023.
Another ground of the challenge of the return of Alex Otti by PDP is that Alex Otti was not duly elected by the majority of lawful votes cast at the election on the account of unlawful manipulation and inflation of votes by Alex Otti and INEC in Aba North, Aba South, Arochukwu, Bende, Ikwuano, Isuikwuato, Ohafia, Umuahia North, Umuahia South and Umunneochi LGAs; and suppression and discounting of votes in Obingwa LGA. As a result of the above, the total number of votes in the inflated LGAs mentioned above, as recorded in the polling unit results (Form 8C8A) do not tally with the number of accredited and verified voters on the record of the Bimodal Vote Accreditation System (BVAS) for the affected polling units.
In the final analysis PDP prays that it be determined by the Tribunal that the PDP Candidate Okey Ahiwe was duly and validly elected and ought to be returned as Governor of Abia State having polled the highest number of lawful votes cast at the election and having satisfied other Constitutional requirements by obtaining the required spread of 25% of votes in at least two-thirds of votess cast in all the 17 LGAs of Abia State.
For emphasis, Section 77(2)&(3) of the Electoral Act provides, inter alia, that every registered political party *SHALL* maintain a register of its members in both hard and soft copy, and *SHALL* make such register available to INEC not later than 30 days before the date fixed for the party primaries. The word, " *shall* ", when used in a Statute connotes a mandatory command and not discretionary.
Section 177(c) of the Constitution provides that a person can only be qualified for election as Governor, if, inter alia, he is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that political party.
Therefore, a community reading of Section 177 of the Constitution and Section 77 of the Electoral Act begs the question: "if the Labour Party did not have Alex Otti's name on its register, or did not in fact submit such a register to INEC bearing his name, then which political party legally sponsored Alex Otti for the 2023 Governorship election?"