Ben Ezechime, Enugu
The Enugu State Election Petitions Tribunal continued its sitting in Enugu on Tuesday with hearing in the petition filed by the Labour Party (LP), and its candidate, Barr Chijioke Edeoga, against the election of Barr Peter Mbah of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), was represented by Friday Emmanuel, who mounted the witness box as a subpoenaed witness to tender the discharge certificate submitted by Governor Peter Mbah, ahead of the elections.
Emmanuel, who works at the Legal Drafting and Clearance department at the INEC headquarter, Abuja was the first to mount the witness box for the day.
V Azinge (SAN), led Edeoga’s legal team while PDP’s legal team was led by Wole Olanipekun (SAN), and Governor Mbah, on the other hand, was led by Alex Iziyon, SAN, with Humphrey Okoli representing the INEC.
The INEC representative, Emmanuel tendered before the Tribunal Barr Peter Mbah’s certificates which he submitted alongside his governorship nomination form.
After tendering his subpoena, Emmanuel then told the Tribunal: “The documents with me are Form EC9 and all the attachments, for the PDP governorship candidate, in Enugu State.”
The LP counsel applied to tender the documents as exhibits. Although both the PDP and Mbah’s counsels objected to the admissibility of the documents, they, however, reserved their objections for the written addresses.
The INEC counsel, however, did not object to the tendering of the documents.
However, just before the INEC staff proceeded to give his evidence, legal fireworks ensued between the petitioners and the respondents.
Two of the respondents, Mbah and the PDP objected to his evidence on the grounds that a witness must first swear to a witness deposition on oath, citing several authorities to back up their argument.
But the petitioners’ counsels, led by Azinge equally cited a plethora of cases which they said justified the evidence of the subpoenaed witness.
The tribunal then held that a ruling on the objections raised by the respondents would be considered alongside the judgment.
Apart from the INEC subpoenaed witness, five others also testified on behalf of the LP in the petition.
The witnesses, who said they were all party agents in Udenu Local Government Area during the governorship election, included Ezeme Ifesinachi (PW4) from Obollo-Etiti; Lt. Colonel Ugwu Chizoba, Rtd. (PW5), from Obollo-Etiti; Joseph Ada, (PW6) and Jonas Okwor from the same LGA.
The witnesses alleged irregularities in the result announced by the INEC for Udenu LGA.
Meanwhile, PDP and Peter Mba’s lawyers stood up and asked that INEC should identify the Labour Party’s register which according to them does not contain Hon Chijioke Edeoga’s name.
However, the INEC official said that he could not find Hon. Edeoga’s name.
At this juncture, Labour party counsel quickly drew the attention of the court to the wrong legal path which PDP lawyers towed arguing that the register should have been shown to him before the INEC man showed it to the tribunal.
LP lawyer then asked the INEC man to show him Isi Uzo Local Government members’ list in the register but he said there was no Isi Uzo Local Government in the register.
What it means is that PDP lawyers and INEC allegedly conspired and removed Isi uzo Local Government from the Labour Party state’s register which carries Hon. Chijioke Edeoga’s name.
The tribunal refused to accept the register on the grounds that it was not complete and that there was no way the tribunal could accept a state’s party register without the complete local governments in it.
One witness from Nkanu-East was attended to before court moved to reconvene today 12th July, 2023 by 9: am in continuation with Nkanu East magic!