From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
A pro-democracy and good governance advocacy organisation, the Enugu Good Governance Group, E-3G, has urged the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to disregard call by the Labour Party for another review of the outcome March 18 governorship election in Enugu State, saying it is a call for anarchy.
The group said having dutifully collated the results of the 17 local government areas and declared the winner, INEC had exhausted its constitutional powers, and therefore urged the election management body to go ahead to present the Certificate of Return to the winner, Dr. Peter Mbah, of the Peoples Democratic Party.
The group made the call at a press conference in Abuja on Tuesday.
Addressing the press, the National Coordinator of the group, Odinaka Okechukwu said: “The Enugu Good Governance Group is aware that the Enugu State chapter of the Labour Party and its governorship candidate, Chijioke Edeoga, have petitioned the the INEC calling on the election management body to: declare the March 18 governorship election as inconclusive; cancel votes in Nkanu East local government area; and withhold the issuance of Certificate of Return to any candidate until issues enumerated in their petition are resolved.
“However, we recall that collation of the results of the 17 local government areas of Enugu State was completed as at 19th March. By the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, the only other duty left for the State Returning Officer was to add up the figures, announce them, and declare the winner in line with Section 64 (8) of the Electoral Act 2022.
“But upon the insistence of the Labour Party, INEC bent backwards to review the results before eventually declaring Dr. Peter Mbah of the PDP the winner on 22nd March.
“Therefore, we see the latest calls by the Labour Party not only an attempt to convert the INEC to an Election Petition Tribunal, but also a call for anarchy; and we condemn it in totality.
“All political actors, including the Enugu Labour Party and its governorship candidate, Chijioke Edeoga, must understand that election is a process guided by timelines and various constitutional “powers vested in several institutions to ensure the sustenance of our democracy. Mounting pressure on one institution to overreach itself will never go well for the nation’s democracy”.
It said, despite reported issues, the 2023 Enugu governorship election “was comparatively and substantially free, fair, and credible”.
“We therefore call on the INEC to disregard the call for a further review of the declared result and go ahead to hand over the Certificate of Return to the declared winner. Doing otherwise will be going beyond INEC’s mandate and an invitation to a possible anarchy.
“We also urge the Enugu Labour Party and any other party dissatisfied with the outcome of the election to make use of the provisions of Section 130 of the Electoral Act 2022 by approaching the Election Petition Tribunal with their complaints”, the group stated.
The E-3G equally faulted the call for the cancellation of the results of Nkanu East LGA, saying it was founded on false premises abd propaganda.
“Contrary to the wrong figures about registered voters, accredited voters, and the figures on I-REV dished out about Nkanu East, authentic data at INEC showed that Nkanu East actually has 82,959 registered voters, while 33,156 voters were accredited by BVAS. INEC I-Rev also confirmed the initial 30,350 votes recorded in the local government area.
“For this reason, the people of the local government area have continued to wonder how INEC arrived at its decision to reduce the 30,350 votes polled by the PDP in Nkanu East where the people trooped out in their numbers to vote for their son by 13,394 votes, while retaining the results of Nsukka LGA and Isi-Uzo local government areas, which was recklessly padded to give the Labour Party candidate, Chijioke Edeoga, undue advantage. But people and the PDP have not brought the house down”.
Throwing more light on the alleged electoral malpractices by the Labour Party in Nsukka and Isi-Uzo LGAs in particular, and most parts of Enugu North zone, Comrade Okechukwu said: “It is well noted that massive rigging and misuse of the security agencies marred the 18th March election in these areas such that the about 17,000 votes earlier polled by Chijioke Edeoga in the afternoon suddenly jumped to 30,294 votes.
“This magic was reportedly achieved by inflating the votes of four Wards, namely, Obukpa, Ihe, Nkpunano, and Owerre/Umuoyo to 12,779. This is the total vote of a whole LGA on a good day. It is equally striking that Ihe and Nkpunano Wards generated a uniform number of 3,410 votes each.
“Again, it is noteworthy that the Labour Party recorded over 17,000 votes in the University of Nigeria Nsukka alone recorded even while students, who constitute the larger voting populations in the academic community, were on compulsory election break.
“It is equally a cause for concern that Nsukka local government area recorded a miraculous 45,476 voters on a day Sun newspaper reports “Enugu Polls: Law Voter Turnout in Nsukka” showed a huge voter apathy.
“Other parties and observers have also put it on record that Chijioke Edeoga and his Labour Party turned Isi-Uzo local government area into a war zone, using security agents to hijack election materials after arresting their perceived political opponents. It was worst in Eha-Amufu Ward 3 where efforts to cook up over 35,000 votes was gallantly resisted by the Council Chairman, Hon. Obiora Obeagu, and the people.
“It has also been reported that when the Labour Party could still not win, Supervisory Polling Officer (SPO) in Umualor and some other wards were abducted into the bush where the results were rewritten to give Edoega and the Labour Party over 12,000 magic votes”, the group concluded.