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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

As Chijioke Edeoga of Labour Party cruises to victory at the tribunal

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I do not want to preempt the judgment of the tribunal in the case challenging Peter Mbah’s claim to victory in the Enugu State governorship election. So, we leave the tribunal to render its judgment as it finds fit given the facts, the law and the evidence of the case before it. But as a human being, experienced in the art of law and courtroom warfare, it is impossible for me to observe a battle without forming an opinion on it and sharing same with those who read my works. In fact, those who follow me have come to expect my thoughts and assessment of this legal battle.

Yesterday, Chijioke Edeoga and Labor Party (LP) closed their case against Peter Mbah, PDP and INEC. By this, they fully presented their evidence and analysis of the law within the court’s scheduling order. Remember that as the party that filed the case, the burden is upon Edeoga and LP to prove their case to the standard of clear and convincing evidence. Any experienced legal analyst could look at their efforts so far, the quality of the evidence they tendered, the witnesses they called, the quality of the presentation they made in the court against the opposition will tell whether indeed they have done enough to win the case to the requisite standard of proof.

There are three legs to the case against Mbah, PDP and INEC. They are:

(1) That Peter Mbah was not qualified to contest in the governorship elections on the ground that he presented a forged NYSC certificate,

(2) That there was a computation error which favored Mbah, instead of the right person, Edeoga, and

(3) That there was over-voting, which added fake 9000 votes to Mbah, without which Mbah could not have been declared the winner.

The trial so far has been filled with shocking drama with a lot of suspense. There were several turning points when the outcome of this case was determined. For instance, the first such critical turning point was when NYSC showed up in court and told the court that it did not issue the certificate that Mbah presented to INEC. With that testimony and supporting evidence, the first leg of Edeoga’s case has been established in such a way that Mbah has no hope of ever overcoming it.

It remained the second and third leg of the case. Yesterday, those remaining legs were established beyond any doubt. In the report presented by a professional observer of the case, the following report was presented:

“Immediately Court commences sitting at about 10:30am Edeoga and LP’s legal team led by Dr. Mrs. V. O. Azinge SAN who after she addressed the Court, called on Mr. Fatogun SAN to take over proceedings from her.

“Mr. Fatogun SAN presented two witnesses from Igboeze-North LGA who did well on their statements on oath respectively. It is as soon as the second witness concluded his witness that the learned SAN Mr. Fatogun called the attention of the Court to the Subpoena order served INEC REC Dr. Chukwuemeka Joseph Chukwu to produce the isolated BVAS machines from the isolated polling units contained in the served order and prayed that the Court invites INEC to present those machines.

“At this point, the Court asked Mr. H. I. Okoli Esq. to respond to the petitioners order who subsequently invited one Mr. Victor Okafor who claims he was in Court to represent the INEC REC.

“The representative of the REC at that point eventually got into the witness box and produced 5 isolated BVAS machines on the isolated polling units from Igboeze North LGA, leaving out 10 from Owo & Ugbawka.

“The proceedings became more interesting after the 5 machines were tendered and the REC representative Mr. Okafor were asked to open the BVAS machines he brought to the Court one after the other and supply the Court information contained in each. Mr. Okafor then opened and put on one of the machines and eventually confirmed to the Court that the BVAS machines cannot be operated beyond what he has done because the machines are locked and empty.

“But in his further answer to the question of Mr. Fatogun SAN, as to what information should the Court rely that are contained in the 5 BVAS machines he brought and the ones he didn’t bring, and he replied and said that the Court should rely on the information on the BVAS report already before the Court which it’s Certified True Copies (C.T.C) was sought and obtained by the petitioners (Edeoga & LP).

“So by this testimony from the INEC officer, it will be right to hold that our second ground of petition which is over-voting is today proved, sealed and delivered to the glory of God.”

The above report is consistent with the observation of every independent reporter present at the proceeding. It is clear from the above that the remaining legs of the case of Edeoga are now firmly and implacably in place. The tribunal will have no choice but to rely on the evidence produced by Edeoga as unchallenged and irrefutable. Indeed, it was as if Peter Mbah and his team were not involved in the case anymore. Their best evidence is in favor of the Edeoga. When the subpoenaed INEC official told the Court that Edeoga’s evidence was right, what do you expect the court to do? It was like going to a match and your opponents get too disoriented in the middle of the game and start scoring against themselves.

Even though Mbah is now to formerly open his defense, it is already clear what his defense cannot undo. They cannot undo NYSC testimony. They cannot undo the admission of the INEC person who told the court to rely only on Edeoga’s evidence. One can as well declare the fight over with Mbah ready to sign terms of unconditional surrender.

Indeed, Edeoga should have enough reasons by now to start celebrating his victory. But I know the gentleman. He is cool-headed, humble and unassuming. He does not see this as a personal battle for him. Rather, he is in this for the sake of justice and truth. He believes that the people of Enugu State should be governed by the person they voted for, not by someone imposed on them through a result that was purchased with money. For that reason, I believe Edeoga is focused and waiting for whatever judgment the tribunal deems fair and just in the circumstances.


By Emeka Ugwuonye

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