The National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Umuahia has dismissed a petition challenging the election of Rep. Benjamin Kalu, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.
In his ruling, Justice Samson Paul-Gang, who led the three-member panel on Tuesday, dismissed the petition by the Labour Party (LP) for lacking merit.
He urged all parties to bear the administrative cost.
The judge ruled that the petitioners failed to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt.
Dailytrailnews reports that the LP candidate, Chief Frank Chinasa, had challenged the re-election of Kalu of All Progressives Congress (APC) for Bende Federal Constituency of Abia.
Counsel to Chinasa, Mr Yunus Usman (SAN), urged the tribunal to set aside all the votes in favour of Kalu because he was not qualified for the Feb. 25 poll.
Usman contended that Kalu was not qualified because he did not possess the requisite educational requirements as provided for in Section 65(2)(a) of the 1999 Constitution.
He argued that Kalu used different names in different educational certificates, other than Kalu Benjamin Okezie, which was his current name.
The counsel also alleged that Form EC9, submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission by Kalu, bore the name “Osisiogu Benjamin Okezie”.
He said that other documents, including his birth certificate, first degree certificate, NYSC Certificate and WASC, bore the name Kalu Benjamin Okezie and Benjamin Okezie Osisiogu, respectively.
He therefore sought an order nullifying and also setting aside all the votes attributed to the first respondent by reason of non-qualification to contest for the said election.
On the other hand, Kalu’s counsel, Mr Kelvin Nwufo, asked the tribunal to dismiss the petition for lack of merit.
He submitted that the inconsistencies in Kalu’s names were validly harmonised through a deed of proof and Federal Government’s gazette, where the change of name was recorded.
Dismissing the petition, the judge held that the onus of proof of alleged falsification of certificate was on the petitioner, not the respondent, which he failed to do beyond reasonable doubt.
Counsels to the parties were not willing to grant press interview.
Meanwhile, it was a mild drama in court as the Action Alliance (AA) candidate in the said election, Mr Ifeanyi Igbokwe, filed a fresh application on imposition of his name.
Igbokwe, who was personally present with his counsels, told the tribunal that he was not challenging the re-election of Kalu in the Feb. 25 poll.
‘’I heard that somebody was using my name to challenge Kalu’s victory and I have come to court to know whom the person is,’’ he said.
The tribunal however, adjourned for hearing on a later date.
Dailytrailnews reports that counsel to AA, Mr Daniel Anya, had in a final written address on Aug. 14, asked the tribunal to annul Kalu’s election over the exclusion of party’s name and logo from the ballot during the poll.