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Illegal primaries: Imo APC loses federal legislative seat to PDP

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THE All Progressives Congress (APC) in Imo State has lost one of the seats it recently secured at the federal House of Representatives to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) following what an Imo State High Court described as illegal Primary election.

Justice P.A. Rigime, on Monday, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw the Certificate of Return it issued to Ugonna Ozurigbo, as the lawmaker-elect representing  Nkwerre/Nwangele/Njaba/Isu federal constituency, and issue it to Kingsley Echendu of the PDP.

The judgement follows a suit filed by Harrison Nwadike, an APC member who said he won the APC primary election but that his name was removed and Ozurigbo’s name substituted in the list submitted to INEC.

Nwadike prayed the court to declare him the authentic candidate of the APC in the election, and as such the winner of the polls.

In his judgement, Justice Rigime agreed that Ozurigbo was not the authentic APC candidate as the law does not recognise any such thing as an “automatic ticket” or an “automatic candidate”. He however ruled that the person who came second in the actual election should be issued a certificate of return.

Neither the PDP nor its candidate in the election were parties to the suit filed by Nwadike.

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In his reaction, Nwadike said he was going to appeal the aspect of the judgement that declared the PDP candidate the winner of the election, when the party and its candidate were not even parties to the suit.

However, counsel to the PDP, Stanley Imo, said the court was right in its decision, because Nwadike did not participate in all the process leading to the return of a candidate by INEC and therefore could not have benefited from the election.

“The law is very clear on this. Harrison Nwadike did not participate in all the stages of the election but my client did. Now, 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,” Imo explained.

Recall that an internal crisis tore the Imo State APC into two factions just before the 2019 general elections, following the attempts by the incumbent Governor, Rochas Okorocha, to impose his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, as the new state governor.

It was the crisis that brought about the improper conduct of primary elections within the party which has now cost the APC a federal legislative seat.

Okorocha’s senatorial seat is also in jeopardy as INEC has refused to issue him a certificate of return after the electoral officer who conducted the polls said he declared Okorocha winner under duress.

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