From Godwin Tsa, Abuja

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), its governorship candidate, Senator Samuel Anyanwu and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Monday traded blame at the Imo State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja over the alleged withholding of vital documents relating to the November 11, 2023 governorship election won by Governor Hope Uzodimma.

The PDP and Anyanwu are challenging the outcome of the election that returned Hope Uzodimma of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

But responding to the allegation, the electoral body said the petitioners have not met with the condition precedent stipulated in section 253(2) of the Evidence Act and Order 20 rule 10 of the Federal High Court rules.
Lead counsel to the petitioners Johnson Usman (SAN), had accused the electoral body of flauting the order of the court by its failure to make available to his clients, some electoral materials used for the November 11, 2023 governorship election including the voters register.
He told the three-member tribunal led by Justice O. Akintan-Osadebay that the commission has refused to produced the election materials after collecting the sum of N5 million from the petitioners as processing fee, since January 26, 2024.
Usman further told the commission that outside the N5 million paid as processing fee, the petitioners equally pay the sum of N4 million to a business centre for the photocopying of the voters register.
“On February 7, 2024, INEC said we should pay N50, 000 for the CTC which we did and it issued us a receipt,” Usman added.

He lamented that out of the 27 Local Government Areas of the state, INEC only provided the Certtified True Copies (CTC), of the voters register from seven LGAs.

Meanwhile, the tribunal on its Monday sitting, admitted in evidence, documents representing the entire polling units in the 27 Local Governments Areas of the State.
The polling units were tendered by counsel to the petitioners, Johnson Usman (SAN).
Responding to the alleged withholding of electoral materials, lead counsel to INEC, A.M Aliyu (SAN), informed the tribunal that the Commission had certified the voters register in seven out of the 27 LGAs but the petitioners have refused to come and pick them at its Owerri office.
In addition, a principal legal officer of the Commission, Nwankwo Onyenyechi, who appeared in honour of the subpoena issued on INEC, told the tribunal that it was the petitioners who instructed the business centre to stop the photocopying of the voters register for onward certification by the commission.
“We received a subpoena and the petitioners wrote a letter for the certitied true copy of the voters register and other documents.
“After that, we have an understanding with them (petitioners) that they will liase with a business centre that will photo copy the voters register, which they did.
“Following that understanding, they produced photocopy for seven LGA which the commission has certified. However, the petitioners asked the business centre to stop production until further notice.

” The voters register from the seven LGAs have been certified but the petitioners have not come to pick them up. They are lying in our office in Owerri. We wrote a letter to the petitioners to come, but they have not come over,” Onyenyechi told the tribunal.
In addition, counsel to INEC, Aliyu informed the tribunal that the petitioners have refused to comply with the provision of the law for the transmission of the documents as contained in the subpoena issued by the tribunal.
But in all of these, counsel to the petitioners disagreed with the position of INEC, insisting that the commission flagrantly disobeyed the order of court by refusing to make the voters register to them, after paying the necessary fee.
Meanwhile, the tribunal has adjourned to Thursday, March 21 for the petitioners to close their case.

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had declared Governor Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress (APC) winner of Saturday November 11, 2023 governorship election in Imo State.
The INEC Returning Officer, Abayomi Sunday, vice chancellor of the Federal University, Oye Ekiti, Ekiti State, declared the winner Sunday morning at the state collation centre in Owerri.

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Prof. Sunday said the APC candidate scored 540,308 votes to defeat his closest challenger of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Samuel Anyanwu, who scored 71,503 votes while the Labour Party candidate, Athan Achonu, came third with 64,081 votes.

The Commission said none of the other 15 candidates had up to 10,000 votes.

However, the PDP and its candidate, Samuel Anyanwu who are challenging Governor Uzodimma’s victory at the tribunal had applied that a subpoena be issued to the electoral body to produce and tender some of the materials used for the election.

Specifically, the subpoena which was issued on INEC by the tribunal at the instance of the petitioners mandated the commission to produce and tender BVS mahines, Certified True Copies (CTC) of Screen shots of the BVS Machines; CTC of Form 40g; CTC of voters register, and CTC of form 25b respectively.

Meanwhile, while INEC was willing to comply with the subpoena, the petitioners thwarted the process by not paying the necessary mobilization fee in line with the provisions of the Electoral Act.
The refusal of the petitioners to pay the mobilization fee, according to the respondents, was informed upon the discovery that the content of the INEC documents were not in their favour.
But rather than admit this fact, petitioners have now turn around to arccused the respondents (APC) of frustrating the process of the Subpoena.
The petitioners had equally frustraded the West African Exammination Council (WAEC) from tendering the WAEC certificate of Gov. Hope Uzodimma, which they alleged was forged, after discovering that the certificate was genuine.

In the petition, PDP and Anyanwu had among other things alleged that the election that brought back Governor Uzodimma was marred by “all manner of electoral malpractices, thuggery, ballot box snatching and massive thump printing of ballot papers.”

 

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