There is confusion stemming from two contradictory judgements by the National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal in Umuahia, Abia State regarding a petition filed by the Action Alliance (AA) party against the election of Benjamin Kalu as Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The AA under chairman Adekunle Omo-Aje had petitioned the tribunal after the party’s submitted candidate for Bende Federal Constituency, Ifeanyi Chukwuka, was excluded from the ballot.
However, two conflicting judgements were later delivered – the first stating the petition was withdrawn by the AA while the second claimed it was dismissed based on an application by Kenneth Udeze of a rival AA faction.
Udeze’s application came after proceedings had closed and judgement was reserved. He allegedly impersonated the party chairman to withdraw a case the legitimate leadership never authorized.
The tribunal dismissed the petition citing Udeze’s withdrawal despite an earlier Federal High Court judgement recognizing Omo-Aje as AA’s chairman and expelling Udeze. The Court of Appeal also affirmed Omo-Aje’s chairmanship in two 2022 judgements.
The AA insists Udeze is an imposter with no standing to withdraw its petition. It claims the tribunal failed to properly investigate the contradictory applications and should have called for oral evidence given the irregularities.
By dismissing the petition on a questionable withdrawal rather than its merits after proceedings ended, the AA argues the tribunal denied it fair hearing and justice was miscarried.
The party has now approached the Court of Appeal to set aside the tribunal’s judgement which it deems perplexing, given the Federal High Court and Appeal Court’s prior validation of its leadership.
The case highlights how factional party disputes can derail electoral petitions. The AA seeks redress over the tribunal’s reliance on a disputed withdrawal motion from an ousted chairman to dismiss its petition against the Deputy Speaker’s election.