The governorship candidate of the Labour Party in Enugu State, Mr. Chijioke Edeoga, informed the election petition tribunal in Enugu that he plans to call upon 36 witnesses to testify against Governor Peter Mbah of the Peoples Democratic Party. The purpose is to provide evidence of Mbah’s alleged certificate forgery.
Mbah, who was declared the winner of the March 18 governorship election in Enugu State by the Independent National Electoral Commission, is facing a strong challenge from Edeoga over the accusation of forging his National Youth Service Corps discharge certificate submitted to the electoral body.
Edeoga is requesting the tribunal to disqualify Mbah based on the alleged forgery of his NYSC certificate. During the recent tribunal session, the petitioners, represented by their counsel Mr. M. J. Numa, informed the panel that they intend to present 28 witnesses under their control and eight witnesses who have been subpoenaed.
Numa further stated that they would need five weeks to call all the witnesses and proposed that each witness under their control should be allocated 15 minutes for cross-examination. He also mentioned that they have arranged for an interpreter and will schedule the process accordingly.
In response, Mr. Wole Olanikpekun and Mr. Tochukwu Maduka, counsel for Mbah and the PDP, respectively, argued that the FCT High Court had already resolved the issue of alleged certificate forgery due to the existence of a leave of appeal. They also cited Sections 177 and 182 of the constitution, stating that the matter had been settled.
Numa countered by stating that there is no record of any appeal regarding the subject matter and emphasized that the court cannot speculate on the existence of an appeal. He asserted that the tribunal had the appropriate jurisdiction for the case and requested the court to dismiss the objection.
“177 and 182 of the constitution are mutually exclusive, 182 has more elaboration than 177, so they are two separate provisions that stand on their own. I, therefore, invite your Lordship to decline those invitations,” he said.
In response, Olanikpekun, representing Mbah, stated that they would present 44 witnesses and requested 25 days to call all their witnesses, allocating 15 minutes for cross-examination.
Olanikpekun clarified that the petition regarding the alleged certificate forgery, which questions the qualification of the second respondent, was not within the tribunal’s jurisdiction.
Similarly, Maduka, the PDP’s counsel, emphasized that no application was filed regarding the alleged certificate forgery. He noted that it was not the tribunal’s role to determine the jurisdiction of the FCT High Court.
However, Maduka informed the tribunal that the PDP intended to bring forth 54 witnesses, including subpoenaed witnesses and forensic experts.
Following the arguments presented by both parties, Justice Akano, the Chairman of the Tribunal, announced that the tribunal would deliver its judgment on the alleged forgery.
Consequently, the tribunal adjourned the case to June 22 to continue the hearing.