The Enugu State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Enugu, has re-affirmed Peter Ndubuisi Mbah as duly elected Governor of the Coal City State.
On March 22, INEC declared the PDP Candidate, Mbah winner with 160895 votes against his closest challenger the LP Candidate, Chijioke Jonathan Edeoga’s 157552 votes in the 18th March Governorship poll.
Dissatisfied with the results as declared by the umpire, the Labour Party and Edeoga through their Counsel, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo SAN, approached the tribunal seeking redress. INEC, Mbah and PDP are listed as the first, second and third respondents, respectively.
Edeoga/LP’s anchored their petition based on 3 grounds:
(1) That Mbah was not qualified to participate in the election because he failed the basic eligibility test by filing a forged NYSC discharge Certificate under oath.
(2) That the election was not conducted in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act, with respect to the non-use of BVAS machines for accreditation, inter-changing of LP’s results in 19 PUs at the Ward Collation Centre in Udenu LGA , electoral violence and
(3) That the election result was not counted in accordance with the law due to over-voting, wrong tabulations especially in Mbah’s Owo Ward and Ugbawka 1 Ward, both of Nkanu East LGA, etc.
In turn, Mbah through his Counsel Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN asked the Court to dismiss the petition for lacking in merit and been an academic exercise.
He argued that Edeoga participated in the Primary of the 3rd Respondent (PDP) on 25th May 2022, lost securing only 9 votes and now emerged Candidate of the LP on June 9, hence his name was not on the membership register of the LP and therefore had no locus to approach the tribunal.
Dismissing same, Justice Kudirat Morayo Akano held that Edeoga is a member of the LP, as the Party had not denied sponsoring him. He also ruled that the membership of a Political Party is within the domestic affairs of that Party and is non-justiciable.
The tribunal overruled the witness statements of PW1 – PW3, PW30, DW2, and DW4. Citing the PEPT suit in Peter Obi & Anor v. INEC & 3 Ors, Justice Akano averred that the witness statements on oath were uploaded out of time and outside the 21 days stipulated under the Electoral Act.
In his ruling on Ground 1, the tribunal held that the Petitioners did not prove that the 2nd respondent did not possess the minimum educational requirements (which is School Certificate or its equivalent) to stand for election.
Mbah did not submit his NYSC requirements to INEC in aid of his qualifications to contest the office of Governor of Enugu State, Justice Akano held.
The tribunal further struck out Ground 1 of the petition on the premise that the NYSC discharge certificate according to Section 177 of the 1999 CFRN is not a requirement for contesting Governorship election in Nigeria.
On Ground 2, Justice Akano ruled that the petitioners failed to prove their case as the witnesses were not INEC-accredited agents and hence their testimonies were invalid.
On the witness statements from the INEC accredited agents, 51 votes were deducted from the PDP and added to the LP. The learned Judge ruled that it was not enough to torpedo the PDP and Mbah.
On Ground 3, the Judge held that PW10 indeed proved that voting did not take place in his Amagu PU and hence it was cancelled for all parties, however in the remaining 10 PUs in Nkanu East LGA the Agents did not sign the results sheet and hence their witnesses statements discountenanced as they cannot prove they were Party Agents.
Justice Akano dismissed the petition for lacking in merit, weak, based on hearsay and loads of concocted and inadmissible evidence.
He affirmed Mbah as the winner of the election having scored the majority of lawful votes cast.
The tribunal had earlier dismissed the petition of Chris Agu and the Peoples Redemption