The Labour Party has explained how the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, allegedly rigged the March 18 governorship election in Enugu State in favour of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its candidate, Peter Mbah.
Addressing newsmen on Wednesday in Abuja over the Nasarawa and Enugu governorship tribunal judgments, and Nkanu East State Constituency tribunal judgment, the party said the three cases presented similar facts but the tribunal judgements were different.
In the text of the press conference delivered by Obiora Ifoh, Labour Party National Publicity Secretary, the party said, “The Labour Party candidate, Hon. Barr. Chijioke Edeoga, was cruising to victory with the results of the election declared in 16 out of 17 LGAs of the state when the PDP colluded with INEC to manufacture 30,000 + votes for Mbah in the remaining Nkanu East LGA, even when only about 15,000 voters were accredited to vote in that home LGA of Mbah.
“The INEC returning officer for the state, Prof Maduebibisi Iwe, rejected the figures from Nkanu East because the BVAS was discarded, prompting the INEC headquarters to invite him to Abuja.
“After three days, an Abuja INEC panel led by Festus Okoye reduced the total 33,000+ votes illegally hurled from Nkanu East alone to about 19,000, but gave Mbah almost 17,000 votes to enable him to beat LP’s Edeoga (who was leading with 11,000+ votes) with 3,000+ votes,” he stated.
He explained that it was “over-voting in Nkanu East LGA, especially in Owo and Ugbawka, that prompted the Labour Party and its candidate, Hon. Chijioke Edeoga, to approach the Tribunal in the hope that the judiciary will review and correct that anomaly.”
Ifoh said, “Enugu State is a Labour Party State and we make bold to say that the Labour Party’s candidate, Hon. Chijioke Edeoga, clearly won the March 18 governorship election held in Enugu. This claim is justified by the outcome of all the other elections held in the State between February and March this year.
“The Labour Party won 2 out of the 3 senatorial seats in the State; 7 out of the 8 Rep seats in the State and 14 out of the 24 seats in the State House of Assembly,” he added.
He explained that the Enugu State Governorship Election Tribunal on Saturday, 21st September 2023 “shockingly delivered a judgment on the disputed election that appeared to have ignored the facts in issue.
“The judgment fell short of the expectations of both the majority of Nigerians and legal pundits who have continued to criticise the fundamental logic and the premise upon which the decision was reached,” he said.
He lamented, “With the recent judgment of the Governorship Election Tribunal in Nasarawa State and the Nkanu East State Constituency Tribunal judgment, the Labour Party is forced to revisit the travesty of justice that took place in the Enugu governorship tribunal judgment, especially given that the three situations presented similar facts, yet different pronouncements were made by the judiciary.”
Recall that the Enugu Governorship Election Tribunal rejected the testimonies of the partitioners’ material witnesses who testified that there was manifest over-voting in Owo and Ugbawka.
The tribunal held that the witnesses were not accredited witnesses of the Party. Iroh said “The tribunal erred in that regard because the law has always been that every voter in Nigeria is an eligible witness before a tribunal, more so when the said witnesses were members of the Labour Party.
“Two, as already established in Torti Vs Ukpabi, it has long been a settled issue that what determines the admissibility of evidence is its relevance.”
He said the Enugu tribunal judgement can be compared to the judgement delivered in Nasarawa, where the tribunal sacked the APC candidate and declared the candidate of the PDP as the winner.
The Labour Party spokesman said “the Governorship Tribunal in Nasarawa rightly admitted the testimonies of the material witnesses who came to testify that the votes of the PDP in Ashigie Ward, Chiroma Ward, etc were wrongly suppressed and thereafter ordered the restoration of the said votes to the PDP, even when the witnesses therein were not accredited witnesses of the PDP.
“Second, the Tribunal in Enugu jettisoned the provisions of Section 137 of the Electoral Act, 2022 which provides that where there is original or certified true copy of a document before the court or tribunal that can establish non-compliance and it is shown that the said non-compliance is manifest on the face of that document, parties are not required to adduce oral evidence.
“The Enugu Tribunal strangely feigned ignorance of the above provisions of Section 137 of the Electoral Act and the mischief it seeks to cure by insisting on the needless and additional requirement of calling of oral witnesses to prove over-voting in Uwo and Ugbawka, even when the Labour Party already filed copious INEC certified true copies of the BVAS Accreditation Reports that evidently proved the case of the Petitioner.
“Again, in juxtaposition with the judgment delivered in the case of Nasarawa, the Tribunal in Nasarawa, in line with the provisions of Section 137 of the Electoral Act, 2022, rightly relied on the documentary evidence contained in the certified true copies of the print out of the BVAS Accreditation Reports to cancel the votes in Gadagwa Ward, Nasarawa Eggon Ward, Shege Ward, Sabon Gari and in other wards where over voting took place without necessarily insisting that oral witnesses be adduced in support of the tendered documentary evidences.
“Again, in the House of Assembly election tribunal judgment in Nkanu East State Constituency involving Labour Party’s Okwudili Michael Nnaji, the panel (a different panel from that of the governorship) was right to rely on only the documentary evidence contained in the certified true copies of the print out of the BVAS Accreditation Reports, without insistence on oral evidence, to order the cancellation of the over-voting in Owo and Ugbawka.
“Interestingly, in the above Nkanu East State Constituency petition, the materials tendered in evidence by the LP House of Assembly candidate whose submissions on over voting were upheld by the tribunal were the same materials that the LP guber candidate tendered before the Akano-led tribunal in a bid to prove over voting in the same polling units in Nkanu East, yet a different panel correctly accepted the evidence of the Labour Party House of Assembly candidate while the Akano-led tribunal jettisoned that of the governorship,” he stated.
He argued that the Enugu governorship election, Nasarawa governorship election and Nkanu East State Constituency election presented similar facts, yet the Enugu governorship tribunal gave a different judgement from what was “correctly held by the Nasarawa governorship tribunal and the tribunal in Nkanu East State Constituency election petition.”
On the issue of Mbah’s NYSC Discharge Certificate saga, he said “the purported issuer of the forged certificate, through a subpoena issued by the Enugu Tribunal, appeared before it to testify that the NYSC Discharge Certificate Gov. Peter Mbah submitted to INEC was not issued by them.
“Sadly, for some strange reasons, the Tribunal thereafter discountenanced the evidence of the Director of Corps Certifications of the NYSC who came to testify at the Tribunal. That testimony, without much ado, fulfils the requirements of the law on proof of forgery and should have indeed proved the case of the petitioner but the Justice Akano-led panel glibly dismissed the pivotal evidence of a key witness it invited to testify before it!”
While appealing for support to correct what he called injustice, he added, “If we allow the injustice perpetrated in Enugu by both the INEC and the Election Tribunal, sitting as the court of first instance, to stand, tomorrow the consequences for us all may be dire.”