The Enugu State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal has rendered its verdict, dismissing the petitions filed by Chijioke Edeoga of the Labour Party and Chris Agu of the People’s Redemption Party (PRP). The Tribunal upheld the election of Dr. Peter Mbah as the duly elected governor of Enugu State.
Both Edeoga and Agu had contested the outcome of the March 18, 2023, governorship election, challenging the declaration of Dr. Peter Mbah as the winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The core allegations in their petitions included claims that Mbah had presented a forged National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) certificate to INEC and that there were instances of over-voting in Udenu, Nkanu East, and Enugu East local government areas. They sought to nullify Mbah’s election and be declared the rightful winners.
However, in a recent ruling, the three-member Tribunal, led by Justice Kudirat Murayo Akano, dismissed all these allegations and upheld Dr. Peter Mbah’s election.
Regarding the alleged NYSC certificate forgery, the Tribunal emphasized that an NYSC certificate is a prerequisite for gubernatorial candidacy, and there was no evidence that Mbah had attached a forged certificate to his INEC submission.
The Tribunal also disregarded the evidence presented by the Department of State Services (DSS), NYSC officials, and others, as they did not comply with the stipulated legal requirements.
Furthermore, the Tribunal dismissed the allegations of over-voting and the misuse of the Biometric Voter Authentication System (BVAS).
Concerning the issue of incorrect result computation for the Labour Party in Udenu Local Government Area, the Tribunal ruled that the petitioners failed to substantiate their claim, as their witnesses provided identical testimonies for various polling units and wards.
The Tribunal also noted that the witnesses presented by the Labour Party were not accredited agents according to INEC guidelines, rendering their testimony invalid.
While the Tribunal acknowledged discrepancies in the Amagu polling unit in Nkanu East council, it canceled the votes for all parties, except in one case where a witness was verified as the rightful person. However, in the remaining 11 polling units, the Tribunal concluded that the witnesses did not sign the result sheets, invalidating their claims as party agents.
With all issues resolved in favor of Dr. Peter Mbah, the Tribunal declared him duly elected as the governor based on the majority of lawful and valid votes cast during the election.
Chijioke Edeoga, in response, rejected the Tribunal’s decision and announced his intention to challenge it in higher courts. He called upon his supporters and Labour Party members in the state to remain calm.
In a statement issued by the Edeoga/Nwokeabia Campaign Organization, it was stated that they would continue their pursuit of justice through the legal process.
“Edeoga, following the outcome of the March 18, 2023, Governorship elections in the state, which was announced in favor of the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Barr. Peter Mbah.
“We wish to convey the acknowledgment by the Labour Party and its candidate, Chijioke Edeoga, of the judgment as delivered at the Tribunal and to state our preparedness to challenge the outcome of this judgment at the Court of Appeal and to all extents as permitted by law.
“To this end, we urge our supporters across the state and in other parts of the country to remain calm and law-abiding and to go about their businesses without fear or hindrance.
“We retain a firm belief in the justice and will go the full extent legally possible in ensuring that the hopes of Enugu people who turned out in their numbers to vote for Labour Party candidates on March 18, 2023, are realized”. It was signed by Engr. George Ugwu, the spokesman for the Campaign Organization.
In response to the Tribunal’s verdict, Barrister Casmir Agbo, the Enugu State Chairman of the Labour Party, expressed strong disagreement with the judgment. He contended that the three-member panel did not adequately address the matter of Peter Mbah’s alleged forgery. He further conveyed the party’s intention to appeal this decision in higher courts.
“Tribunal in his wisdom today failed to present the fact and law when they said in the first place that Barr. Peter Mbah, who attached a forged certificate, is qualified to contest the election. They said it is not a requirement to contest the election.
“Instead of the Tribunal to determine whether the certificate was forged but, only ruled on the subpoena of NYSC head of certificate did not meet the requirement specifications of time to upload his written statement.
“We are asking the Tribunal if a witness must bring his written statement before the date of court; the answer is no. They are following the footsteps of the Appeal court on Peter Obi, and they are in the Supreme Court, and we are going over to appeal court”.