… Says It Doesn’t Portend Good for Our Institutions
Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, in conjunction with the Patriotic Defenders of National Institutions, DNI, have raised concern over the recent judgment handed down by the Enugu State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal regarding Petition No. : EPT/EN/GOV/01/2023.
This was made known in a press conference by both organisations held in Abuja.
The HURIWA National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko stated that the coalition was specifically concerned about the case filed by Chijioke Edeoga and the Labour Party, which challenges the outcome of the gubernatorial election held on March 18, 2023, in Enugu State, saying the case brings to light crucial issues surrounding the integrity of certification, justice, and the rule of law in Nigeria.
According to them, Enugu State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal’s decision has raised serious questions about the conduct of the tribunal, the credibility of the country’s institutions, including the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, Department of State Security, DSS, Judiciary and the broader implications for the certification process in Nigeria.
In their grieve, they mentioned that the tribunal swiftly dismissed allegations of NYSC certificate forgery against the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, candidate, Peter Mbah, and rejected the Labour Party’s claims of over-voting and bypassing Biometric Voter Accreditation System, BVAS.
“The tribunal’s conclusion was that Peter Mbah was legitimately elected as governor based on the majority of valid votes in the election.
“However, the Labour Party and its gubernatorial candidate are appealing this decision, firmly believing that justice was not served in this case.
“We are deeply troubled by the apparent decline in the integrity of our judiciary, where questionable rulings frequently emerge from our esteemed halls of justice,” said the coalition.
They went on to state that the case before the tribunal, led by Honourable Justice Kudirat Akano, points to a clear instance of electoral malpractice, as the petitioners presented evidence that after the collation of 16 out of the 17 local government areas in Enugu State, Labour Party candidate Chijioke Edeoga was leading by over 11,000 votes.
The statement further read, “Shockingly, the PDP in Enugu, possibly with the involvement of INEC, awarded the PDP a staggering 30,000 votes in Nkanu East LGA, which happens to be the PDP candidate’s LGA.
“The Labour Party alleged that the INEC BVAS data for Nkanu East LGA showed a total of 15,000 accredited voters on Election Day. However, when the results were declared, the PDP was credited with a total of 30,350 votes, while the Labour Party received only 1,855 votes. How could INEC report over 33,000 votes in a location where only about 15,000 voters were accredited?
The associations also explained that legal experts have analysed the judgment and found it to be delivered with a disregard for Constitution and Supreme Court precedents, as they stated that Section 182(1)(j) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria clearly outlines the penalties for forgery, regardless of the perpetrator’s status.
They continued. “The tribunal also erred in failing to reevaluate the figures awarded to the PDP. It is a miscarriage of justice for the court to rule in favor of an individual who as alleged, blatantly violated Section 182(1)(j) of the Constitution.
“Furthermore, it was erroneous for the court to assert that a petitioner must produce a certificate they did not create. Additionally, describing the evidence of witnesses subpoenaed by the court as “incompetent” because the witness statements were not filed at the time the petition was initially submitted is a grave mistake.
“The Supreme Court, in the case of Agi vs PDP, defined forgery as presenting a document not created by the agency purported to have made it.
“In this petition, the tribunal called five witnesses, including a Director from the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, responsible for Corps Certification, and a Managing Partner of a law firm, who sought NYSC certificate verification under the Freedom of Information Act to confirm the authenticity of Peter Mbah’s NYSC certificate presented to INEC.
“The tribunal’s assertion that the forged certificate was not submitted to support Mr. Mbah’s qualification to contest the election contradicts the law and Supreme Court precedent, therefore, the tribunal’s decision that the NYSC certificate is not a prerequisite for a gubernatorial election, or that both the forged and original documents must be presented to the court, is a gross miscarriage of justice.
“The court was also incorrect in declaring that the NYSC certificate, not having been mentioned in Form EC9 (the affidavit of personal particulars), is merely an attached document and does not impact the qualification of the second respondent.
Quoting Section 177 of the constitution, they coalition said it outlines the qualifications for running in a gubernatorial election in Nigeria.
“Anyone eligible under Section 177 can be disqualified under Section 182(1) (j) if, as specified in subsection (j), they present a forged certificate to INEC.
“The Supreme Court, in the case of Ucha v. Onwe (2011), ALL FWLR (PT 580) 1227 @ 1295; (2011) 4 NWLR (PT 1237) 386 @ 427, upheld the provision of Section 66(1)(h) of the 1999 Constitution as a disqualifying factor. The tribunal’s finding that the NYSC Certificate is not covered by Section 66(1) (h) of the 1999 Constitution is incorrect.
They then maintained that the judgment delivered by the Enugu State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal can only be described as a miscarriage of justice and a fundamental jurisprudential flaw.
HURIWA and DNIs drew the attention of the general public to what revolves around the serious allegation of NYSC certificate forgery against Peter Mbah, the PDP candidate in the last Enugu guber elections.
“This allegation gains weight through NYSC’s testimony as contained in a sworn affidavit in the Federal High Court case between Peter Mbah and the NYSC, which formed part of the evidence NYSC submitted to the tribunal in further proof that NYSC never issued any certificate to Mr. Mbah, let alone the purported certificate of National Service No. A808297 dated January 6, 2003, was not given due cognisance by the tribunal.
“The revelations from the NYSC is alleged to cast serious doubt on the authenticity of the NYSC certificate presented by Peter Mbah, raising significant questions about the eligibility of the governor for the gubernatorial race,” added the associations.