By Haruna Salami
The judgements at the States and National Assembly Election Petition tribunals in various states have altered the composition of the two chambers of the National Assembly with major and minor parties affected.
At the inauguration of the 10th National Assembly on June 13, 2023, the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) had 59 Senate seats, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had 36, the Labour Party (LP) had 8, New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) and Social Democratic Party ( SDP) had 2 each and the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and Young People’s Party (YPP) had 1 each making the 109 members of the upper chamber.
In the Green chamber, APC had 176, PDP 118, LP 35, NNPP 19, APGA 5, ADC 2, SDP 2 and YPP1.
The Labour Party, a relatively unknown party performed well in several states such as Enugu, Abia, Imo, Delta, Anambra, Plateau, Benue and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
However, as the States and National Assembly Election Petition Tribunals delivered their judgements recently, concluding their sittings on Saturday, September 16, 2023, the LP has emerged as one of the biggest casualties of the tribunals’ judgements.
Hon. Chijioke Stanislaus Okereke, representing Awgu/Aninri/Oji River Federal Constituency was one of the three House of Reps members whose elections were nullified by the tribunal in Enugu State.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) declared Okereke winner of the election, but the tribunal sacked him, declaring Chief Onwuegbu Anayo of the PDP winner.
Also, Hon. Paul Sunday Nnamchi representing Enugu East/Isi-Uzo Federal Constituency had his election nullified by the tribunal, which declared Cornelius Nnaji of the PDP as winner.
The tribunal also nullified the election of Hon. Sunday Cyriacus Umeha representing Udi/Ezeagu Federal Constituency. The court said that he failed to properly resign his membership of the PDP before picking the ticket of the LP. It declared PDP candidate, Festus Uzor as the winner.
Saturday Times reports that tribunals sitting in different states of the country have sacked many of the elected members of the party in Edo, Abia, Enugu, among others, over the discrepancy surrounding their membership of the party and their mode of nomination.
The three House of Representatives members: Ibe Okwara Osonwa, Emeka Nnamani and Munachim Alozie elected on the platform of the LP were sacked by the tribunal sitting in Umuahia, Abia State capital.
The tribunal led by Justice Adeyinka Aderebigbe sacked the member representing Arochukwu/Ohafia Federal Constituency, Osonwa, for non-compliance with the Electoral Act 2022.
Again, the election of Thaddeus Attah representing Eti-Osa Federal Constituency of Lagos State was declared inconclusive by the tribunal.
Although the LP suffered a lot of setback in many states at the tribunals, however, it was a different scenario in Plateau State, where the LP recorded a win as the tribunal declared Hon. Dandereng Gideon winner of the Jos South/Jos East Federal Constituency.
The tribunal sitting in Jos sacked Bagos of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
In Edo State, the tribunal sitting in Benin City also dismissed two petitions challenging the victory of two LP candidates for lacking in merit.
The APC has its fair share of losses at the tribunals in some states too. In Kogi State, the Senator representing Kogi East, Jibrin Isah had his election voided and ordered a rerun in some polling units.
The case of Kogi Central was more direct when the tribunal removed Senator Abubakar Ohere and declared his opponent in the February election, Natasha Akpoti-Uduagha of the PDP as the winner of the election.
Expectedly, the Labour Party has expressed concerns over how its members were sacked by the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal in many states across the country.
The National Chairman of the party, Barr. Julius Abure, said that the issue of “membership is an internal affair of the party beyond the jurisdiction of courts”.
Also the National Publicity Secretary, Dr. Aliyu Danko said “the same issues which were dealt with as pre-election matters are being used to discard some of our Reps members and we find it very appalling and unacceptable”.
As the various political parties count their gains and losses, especially coming from the National Assembly tribunal judgements, all those whose elections were quashed are at the Court of Appeal trying to reverse the great political setback.
The final decisions of the Appeal Court will definitely alter how the various political parties stand in the two chambers of the National Assembly today.