The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Enugu, yesterday, dismissed the petitions of the Labour Party (LP) candidate, Chijioke Edeoga and his party and Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and its candidate, Christopher Agu against the declaration and return of Peter Mbah of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as governor.
In dismissing the petitions for lacking in merits, the Justice Kudirat Morayo Akano-led three-member tribunal consequently, affirmed Mbah as the duly elected.

Summarizing her judgment in Edeoga and LP petitions, Justice Akano said, “Having resolved all issues above against the petitioners, it follows that this petition is lacking in merit and ought to be dismissed; accordingly this petition is hereby dismissed. We affirm the declaration and return of Mbah by the Independent National Electoral Commission as the duly elected governor of Enugu state.”
Edeoga and his party had petitioned the tribunal challenging INEC’s declaration and return of Mbah on the grounds that Mbah was not qualified to stand for the election, having submitted a forged National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) discharge certificate and cases of over-voting in Udenu, Nkanu East and Enugu East local governments.

The Tribunal which dismissed all the grounds of Edeoga’s petition held that Mbah did not submit his NYSC discharge certificate to INEC as an aid of his qualification to contest for office of the governor, since he was already qualified without an NYSC certificate.

It held that NYSC discharge certificate was not a requirement for contesting for the office of the Governor and discountenanced the evidences given on the issue by all the witnesses of both parties except for PW26, including those of the DSS, NYSC official and others stating that they were not in compliance with paragraph 4, subsection 5(d) of the Evidence Act.

In rejecting Edeoga’s witnesses, the panel ruled that the LP governorship candidate did not present any admissible evidence to prove that Mbah’s certificate was forged and resolved the issue of Certificate forgery in Favour of Mbah.
On allegations of over-voting, bypass of BIVAS, wrong computation of results of the LP in the three local governments, the panel held that the petitioners failed to prove their case and that the witnesses they called gave the same report for different polling units and wards and wondered why their testimonies were the same even from different locations.

It also held that the witnesses presented by the LP were not duly accredited agents by INEC which made their testimonies invalid.
The panel, however, used the witnesses from the accredited agents in three polling units to make some deductions in the units which now brought Mbah’s vote down from 168,444 to 160,567 and Edeoga’s from 157, 555 to 157,551.

It held that the deduction was not enough to overturn the election of Mbah and declared that he was duly elected as governor by majority of lawful and valid votes cast at the election.
Governor Mbah described the decision as victory for democracy and the people of Enugu State. He also extended hands of fellowship to the opposition candidates and their political parties, saying the task to build Enugu remained a collective one, and that he was committed to working with all, irrespective of political leanings.

Addressing the state at the Government House, Enugu, Mbah said: “This is another memorable day in the annals of our dear state, as the Enugu State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal affirmed the mandate, which you freely gave to us on 18th of March this year.

“This is a victory for Ndi Enugu. It is also a victory for democracy.
“It is a victory for massive development for Ndi Enugu. It is a victory for exponential growth for Ndi Enugu. It is a victory for Enugu’s greatness. It is a victory for the ban on Monday sit-at-home. It is also a victory for our determination to restore water in all your homes in the next 68 days”.

While thanking God for making the victory possible, Dr. Mbah also commended the tribunal for painstakingly dissecting the petitions and “for coming out with fair and just decision that resonates with Ndi Enugu.

“The verdict has further strengthened our confidence in the judiciary as the temple of justice and the last hope of the common man.”

Extending hands of fellowship to his opponents, Mbah said: “There is time for everything under the sun. There is time to strive and time to unite. We all put ourselves forward to serve Ndi Enugu. The people have spoken, and the Tribunal has also affirmed. If service was the motivation, then it is time to rise above partisanship and come together because there is so much work to be done.

“Our arms are wide open and I beckon to my brothers, who ran this race with us, to join us in the onerous task of building a new Enugu State of our dreams.
“In the same vein, I enjoin all our supporters to be magnanimous in victory. Politics is over. Governance began on 29th May when we were inaugurated. It is time to unite.”
Governor Mbah, who reiterated his resolve to deliver on his campaign promises, further stressed that the tribunal’s decision was an elixir to do more, and urged the people to hold him to account on those promises.

“Once more, I immensely thank the good people of Enugu State, who not only believed in us, but also vested their mandate in us. Above all also above, they have stood by us every step of the way.

“I want to assure them that I will work for them with every fibre of my being. I stand by every campaign promise I made as espoused in our Statement of Purpose. I also stand by the Citizens Charter that I executed on my first day in office. The Enugu people should hold me to account. I will not let them down”, he concluded.

We’ll seek redress in Appeal Court

Regardless of the Olive branch, the Abure-led LP and the PRP have declared that would appeal the judgment.

A statement by LP’s National Publicity Secretary, Obiora Ifoh, described the decision as absurd, stating that it depicts the reality of the country’s judiciary.
It read: “Labour Party today watched in horror as another absurdity played out in Enugu where the governorship and House of Assembly Tribunal dismissed allegations of NYSC certificate forgery against the PDP candidate, Peter Mbah.
“The tribunal also struck out our party’s allegation of over-voting, bypass of BVAS while insisting that Peter Mbah was duly elected as governor by majority of lawful and valid votes cast at the election.

“Though we will seek redress at the Supreme Court immediately knowing that justice was miscarried in this particular case and that the tribunal judgement can not stand, however we are worried about the level of degeneration in our judiciary where ridiculous rulings are frequently churned out from the hallowed temple of justice.”
LP claimed its case before the tribunal was that of a clear case of electoral robbery.

“We pointed out that in Enugu, after the collation of 16 LGAs out of the 17 LGAs of the state, our candidate, Chijioke Edeoga, was leading with over 11,000 votes, surprisingly, the PDP in Enugu, working in cahoots with the INEC, shockingly and provocatively wrote and awarded to the PDP a whopping 30,000 votes at Nkanu East LGA, the LGA of the PDP candidate.”

It further claimed that the figures from the INEC BVAS in Nkanu East LGA recorded a total number of 15,000 accredited voters on election day, but when votes were declared, the PDP was allocated 30,350 votes while 1,855 was credited to LP.
“So, we asked how INEC could have turned out over 33,000 votes in a place where only about 15,000 voters were accredited. We had also asked the tribunal to disqualify the PDP candidate for presenting a fake NYSC certificate. The authority of NYSC confirmed that the PDP candidate absconded from service and that the certificate he parades was not issued by them. Doesn’t that seems like an open and close case, yet the tribunal saw nothing in a clear case of electoral forgery and perjury.”

Also, counsel to Edeoga, Dr. Valerie Azinge, expressed their resolve to go on appeal, as she informed the tribunal that her team, though respectd the panel’s judgment disagreed with it and pleaded that a copy of the judgment be made available to them immediately.

Speaking to newsmen later she said, “We’re going on appeal. Well I wouldn’t say justice or no justice, all I have said and I maintain to say is that we respect the judgment but we disagree entirely on the reasons on how the judgment was arrived at and therefore we go on appeal and exercise our constitutional rights.”
Asked if she was surprised at the judgment, she said, “Surprised? As far as I am concerned, we established the three grounds upon which we came on this petition. The issue of being satisfied or not satisfied is an issue of law which will be tested on appeal.”

Also, Edeoga, in a statement by his spokesperson, George Ugwu, said his legal team in line with his constitutional rights, have been instructed to appeal the judgment which “legal experts have described as bizarre, hollow and lacking in legal precedent.”

According to him, “We thank our numerous supporters and the good people of Enugu State who voted overwhelmingly for LP in the last elections for their continued support.
“While assuring them that the mandate will be retrieved through already provided constitutional means, we urge them to remain calm and resolute in their support. Justice will be pursued and justice will be done.”

Mixed reactions

Commissioner for Information, Mr. Aka Eze Aka, said the judgment was expected.

“You can see the jubilation everywhere which is enough evidence that the people actually voted for Mbah. That goes to prove that the people of the state love him hence they voted massively for him,” he said.

Aka said that the victory meant that the government would now concentrate on the various projects lined up for the development of the state.

In the same vein, legal practitioner and PDP stalwart, Mr. Chidi Okeke, described the judgement as a welcome development. “We did not expect anything less. It is a sweet victory.”
However, the state Publicity Secretary of LP, Mr. Onuora Odo, described the judgement as a “sham and a perversion of justice.”

Odo, legal practitioner, vowed that the party would move to a higher Court to seek justice.

“Our legal team is going to study the Judgement carefully and advise on the next line of action. But rest assured that we will seek justice in a higher court, that Judgement cannot stand,” he said.

In a statement by Odimma Nsukka, the pan-Nsukka socio-cultural organization described Mbah’s victory as victory for purposeful leadership and speedy transformation of the state.

The statement signed by the group’s Chairman, Vita Abba, said: “We are happy that the Governor Peter Mbah administration has come to stay and Ndi Enugu will surely rejoice. This is a popular mandate”.

Isi-Uzo, the home local government of the LP candidate said the judgement reflected the popular wish of the people of Enugu State.
The statement enjoined Mbah’s opponents to accept his hands of fellowship to move the state forward.

“The good people of Isi-Uzo LGA hold this to be true that justice has been done. It is justice for the good people of Enugu State, who queued under the sun for hours to cast their ballots to unlock the massive vision that Dr. Peter Mbah expressed this during his tour of the 68 Development Areas before the election.

“By this judgement, we can rest assured that Enugu State is on a sure-footed and consequential journey to a $30 billion dollar economy, zero poverty headcount, educational transformation, and becoming the preferred destinations for business, investment, tourism, and living.

“We are proud of the foundations our great and amiable governor has laid and urge Ndi Enugu to continue to support him. Importantly, we urge Dr. Peter Mbah’s opponents in the last election to take advantage of the wide arm of fellowship he has extended to join hands with him to build an Enugu State that our generation as well as the future generations will be proud of.”

Oganiru Ndi Enugu also lent their voice to the judgment, describing the judiciary as the last hope of the common man.

The National President of Oganiru Enugu, Jude Asogwa, expressed satisfaction with not only the judgment, but also what Dr. Mbah has been able to achieve in the last 100 days.
“We are happy because the laudable programmes started by the administration can continue unhindered. Sometime before the election, Monsignor Obiora Ike described Mbah as a technocrat on a rescue mission and we are glad that Mbah has demonstrated capacity.

“So, this is essentially victory for the people of Enugu and as you can see from the jubilation across the state, the people are happy,” Asogwa stated.


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