Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal, sitting in Umuahia, has admitted as exhibits, nine different documents alleging that the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and member representing Bende federal constituency, Rt. Hon Benjamin Kalu, has discrepancies in his credentials.
The Petitioner, Chief Frank Chinasa, candidate of the Labour Party, in the February 25 national assembly election, had through his Lead Counsel, Yunus Ustaz Usman, SAN, tendered the documents which included certified true copies of Kalu’s birth certificate, West African Examination Council ( WAEC) certificate; First Degree; National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) certificate; among others.
The 1st Petitioner’s lawyer argued that while some of the certified true copies of the documents deposed before the tribunal bore Osisiogu Benjamin Okezie, others bore Kalu Benjamin Okezie, and Benjamin Okezie Osisiogu, respectively.
After his submissions, the Hon. Justice Samson Paul Gang-led three man panel admitted the documents as exhibits.
Other members of the panel include Hon. Justice Kabiru Ibrahim Ahmed (Member 1); and Hon. Justice Abdulfatai Baba Sekori (Member 2).
Meanwhile, Counsel to the First Respondent, Kelvin Nwufo, SAN, objected to the admissibility of the documents as exhibits but said he would give reasons for his objections at the submission of his final written address.
In the same vein, Counsel to the 2nd Respondent, the All Progressives Congress, APC, Mr Vigilus Nwankwo; as well as his Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, counterpart, Ogochukwu Onyekwulije, all objected to the admissibility of the documents, promising also to adduce their reasons for objection at the submission of their final written addresses.
The tribunal also admitted as exhibits the result of the election which the Petitioners alleged was manipulated by the 3rd Respondent in favour of the 1st and 2nd Respondents.
According to the 1st Petitioner, INEC awarded him 6,898 votes, and 10,020 votes to the 1st Respondent.
The 1st Petitioner also tendered a copy of his protest letter to INEC alleging manipulation of the election result, and it was admitted as exhibit.
Meanwhile, during cross-examination, the 1st Petitioner was asked if he was aware that the 1st Respondent did harmonisation of names and a newspaper publication indicating his change of name.
Responding, the LP candidate denied knowledge of any harmonisation of names by the 1st Respondent.
Asked if he was also aware of a High Court judgement confirming the harmonisation of names by the APC candidate, the 1st Petitioner answered in the negative.
When Counsel to APC however asked the 1st Petitioner why he did not get the true copies of the various documents he tendered certified by their respective issuing authorities but rather by the Abia State High Court, he responded :” individually no, but summarily yes.”
Meanwhile, the tribunal adjourned till Saturday when the 1st Respondent is expected to stand in the witness box for his testimonies and for cross-examination.
Counsels to both 2nd and 3rd Respondents said they had only one witness respectively.
In a related development, the tribunal also admitted in evidence, the deposition by the Action Alliance, AA, candidate, Mr Ifeanyi Chukwuka Igbokwe, that his party’s name and logo were excluded from the ballot box.
A certified true copy of a protest letter by AA to INEC where the party complained about the said exclusion was tendered in evidence by the National Secretary of AA, Ambassador Suleiman Abdulrasheed, and admitted as exhibit.
The AA National Scribe told the tribunal that Hon. Justice Z. P Abubakar of the Federal High Court Abuja, had in a judgment on suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1759/2022, delivered on November 4, 2022, ordered INEC to immediately upload and publish Igbokwe as the validly nominated AA candidate but INEC refused to do so.
As usual, Counsels to all Respondents kicked against the admissibility of the document but said they would give reasons during the submission of the final written addresses.
The AA candidate, Igbokwe, who also testified before the tribunal during cross examination told the tribunal that the non-inclusion of his party’s name and logo, and his subsequent non participation robbed his of victory at the poll.
But Counsels to the Respondents argued that the AA candidate was not validly nominated by his party.
Hearing on the matter was adjourned till Friday for continuation.