ENUGU, (iexclusivenews) – The Enugu State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal has upheld the election of Dr. Peter Mbah as the governor of Enugu State, dismissing the petitions of Chijioke Edeoga of Labour Party and Chris Agu of People’s Redemption Party (PRP).
Both Edeoga and Agu had challenged the declaration of Mbah by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the winner of the March 18, 2023 governorship election in the state.
Allegations of Certificate Forgery and Over-Voting
Chijioke Edeoga of the Labour Party and Chris Agu of PRP had
alleged before the tribunal that Mbah was not qualified to contest the election because he presented a forged National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) certificate to INEC.
Edeoga and Labour Party also claimed that there were cases of over-voting in Udenu, Nkanu East and Enugu East local government areas, and therefore prayed the tribunal to nullify Mbah’s election and declare him winner.
But in its ruling on Thursday, September 21, 2023, the three-member Tribunal headed by Justice Kudirat Murayo Akano dismissed all allegations and affirmed Mbah’s election.
Ruling on the alleged NYSC certificate forgery, the tribunal said that NYSC certificate is a requirement for contesting for the office of the Governor of a state and that there is no evidence that the NYSC certificate was attached to the documents Mbah submitted to INEC to contest the election.
The tribunal, therefore, discountenanced all the evidences by the Department of State Services (DSS), NYSC official and others, saying they were not in compliance with paragraph 4, subsection 5D of the Evidence Act.
The tribunal also dismissed the allegation of over-voting and bypassing of Biometric Voter Authentication System (BVAS).
Wrong Computation of Results
On the issue of wrong computation of results of the Labour Party in Udenu Local Government Area, the tribunal declared that the petitioners failed to prove this allegation and that the witnesses they brought gave the same report for different polling units and wards and wondered why their testimonies are the same even from different locations.
The tribunal further said that the witnesses called by Labour Party were not duly accredited agents by INEC which it said made their testimony invalid.
The panel, however, based on the witnesses from the right agents in three polling units, which it said were accredited agents, deducted 51 votes from PDP votes and added same to Labour Party but held that the deduction was not enough to overturn the election of Mbah.
Also, in Amagu polling unit in Nkanu East council, the tribunal cancelled the votes for all parties because the witness, PW10 proved that he was there and was the right person.
But in the remaining 11 polling units, the tribunal maintained that the witnesses did not sign the result sheets and so their witnesses were discountenanced for inability to prove that they were party agents.
Having resolved all the issues at stake in favour of Peter Mbah, the tribunal declared that he was duly elected as governor by the majority of lawful and valid votes cast during the election.
In a swift reaction, Edeoga rejected the tribunal’s decision and declared that he would challenge it at higher courts and called on his supporters and Labour Party members in the state to remain calm.
In a statement by Edeoga/Nwokeabia Campaign Organization, he said: “On Thursday, September 21, 2023, the Enugu State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal delivered its judgment on
the petition brought by the Labour Party and its candidate, Barr Chijioke Jonathan Edeoga, following the outcome of the March 18, 2023 Governorship elections in the state, which was announced in favour of the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Barr. Peter Mbah.
“We wish to convey the acknowledgment by the Labour Party and its candidate, Chijioke Edeoga, of the judgment as delivered at the tribunal, and to state our preparedness to challenge the outcome of this judgement at the Court of Appeal and to all extents as permitted by law.
“To this end, we urge our supporters across the state and in other parts of the country to remain calm, law-abiding, and to go about their businesses without fear or hindrance.
“We retain a firm belief in the justice, and will go the full extent legally possible in ensuring that the hopes of Enugu people who turned out in their numbers to vote for Labour Party candidates on March 18, 2023 are realized”. It was signed by Engr. George Ugwu, the spokesman for the Campaign Organization.
Meanwhile, reacting to the tribunal’s ruling, Enugu state chairman of Labour Party, Barr. Casmir Agbo rejected the judgment, saying that the three man panel failed to treat the issue of forgery by Peter Mbah and expressed the desire of the party to challenge the decision at higher courts.
“Tribunal in his wisdom today failed to present the fact and law, when they said in the first, place that Barr. Peter Mbah who attached forged certificate is qualified to contest the election. They said it is not a requirement to contest the election.
“Instead of the tribunal to determine whether the certificate was forged but only ruled on the subpoena of NYSC head of certificate did not meet the requirement specifications of time to upload his written statement.
“We are asking the tribunal if a witness must bring his written statement before the date of court, the answer is no. They are following the footstep of Appeal court on Peter Obi and they are in Supreme Court and we are going over to appeal court”.
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